A sweeping and surprising new understanding of extreme poverty in America from the authors of the acclaimed $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.
“This book forces you to see American poverty in a whole new light.” (Matthew Desmond, author of Poverty, by America and Evicted)
Three of the nation’s top scholars – known for tackling key mysteries about poverty in America – turn their attention from the country’s poorest people to its poorest places. Based on a fresh, data-driven approach, they discover that America’s most disadvantaged communities are not the big cities that get the most notice. Instead, nearly all are rural. Little if any attention has been paid to these places or to the people who make their lives there.
This revelation set in motion a five-year journey across Appalachia, the Cotton and Tobacco Belts of the Deep South, and South Texas. Immersing themselves in these communities, pouring over centuries of local history, attending parades and festivals, the authors trace the legacies of the deepest poverty in America—including inequalities shaping people’s health, livelihoods, and upward social mobility for families. Wrung dry by powerful forces and corrupt government officials, the “internal colonies” in these regions were exploited for their resources and then left to collapse.
The unfolding revelation in The Injustice of Place is not about what sets these places apart, but about what they have in common—a history of raw, intensive resource extraction and human exploitation. This history and its reverberations demand a reckoning and a commitment to wage a new War on Poverty, with the unrelenting focus on our nation’s places of deepest need.
KATHRYN J. EDIN is the William Church Osborne Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. The author of nine books, Edin is widely recognized for using both quantitative research and direct, in-depth observation to illuminate key mysteries about poverty: “In a field of poverty experts who rarely meet the poor, Edin usefully defies convention” (New York Times).
TIMOTHY J. NELSON is Director of Undergraduate Studies in Sociology and Lecturer of Public Affairs at the School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of numerous articles on low-income fathers and is the co-author, with Edin, of the award-winning Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City.
"A powerful, alarming portrayal of how poverty remains entrenched in unfairly forgotten places across America." — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Three of the nation’s top poverty scholars deliver a profound inquiry into the most disadvantaged communities in America. Combining historical and statistical analysis with on-the-ground interviewing, the authors present novel and provocative arguments for many social ills that plague these regions. This book challenges and enrages, humbles and indicts—and forces you to see American poverty in a whole new light.” — Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Evicted and Poverty, by America
“Captivating and insightful, The Injustice of Place sheds new light on how the places in which we live shape so many aspects of our lives -- from our jobs to our health to our children's prospects. By interweaving big data with on-the-ground ethnography and historical analysis, the authors exemplify the best of social science today, and will surely help frame policy discussions in the years to come.” — Raj Chetty, Harvard University, recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal recognizing the economist under forty whose work has made the most significant contribution to the field
“Woven with vivid, first-hand accounts and bolstered by fresh data, Injustice of Place convincingly knots present-day disadvantage to the long tail of racism and extractive capitalism. This book delivers new insights into solving today’s most intractable injustices.” — Mona Hanna-Attisha, Flint, MI, pediatrician and author of What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City
“There is no book on poverty in America quite like this one. Original reporting and rigorous data analysis reveal a living history of injustice maintained through corruption, resource extraction, and violence; but the book doesn’t leave us there. We meet everyday people who, even in the face of backlash from the economic and political elite, try to bring about change. Incisive, surprising, enraging, and hopeful, The Injustice of Place is the book on poverty we’ve needed all along.” — Reuben Jonathan Miller, 2022 MacArthur Fellow and author of Halfway Home: Race, Punishment, and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration
“A remarkable book that could very well change the way we think about poverty in the United States.” — New York Times on $2 a Day
“Profound and moving.” — NPR’s Marketplace on $2 a Day
“Harrowing . . . [An] important and heart-rending book, in the tradition of Michael Harrington’s The Other America.” — Los Angeles Times on $2 a Day
“This searing look at extreme poverty deftly mixes policy research and heartrending narratives.... Mixing academic seriousness and deft journalistic storytelling, this work may well move readers to positive action.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review, on $2 a Day