Review Time: Evicted Poverty and Profit in the American City



Title: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American CityEvicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City
Author: Matthew Desmond
Published: 2016
Pages: 419
Version: Kindle
Started: 2017/01/01
Finished: 2017/01/10
Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis: From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America

In this brilliant, heartbreaking book, Matthew Desmond takes us into the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee to tell the story of eight families on the edge. Arleen is a single mother trying to raise her two sons on the $20 a month she has left after paying for their rundown apartment. Scott is a gentle nurse consumed by a heroin addiction. Lamar, a man with no legs and a neighborhood full of boys to look after, tries to work his way out of debt. Vanetta participates in a botched stickup after her hours are cut. All are spending almost everything they have on rent, and all have fallen behind.

The fates of these families are in the hands of two landlords: Sherrena Tarver, a former schoolteacher turned inner-city entrepreneur, and Tobin Charney, who runs one of the worst trailer parks in Milwaukee. They loathe some of their tenants and are fond of others, but as Sherrena puts it, “Love don’t pay the bills.” She moves to evict Arleen and her boys a few days before Christmas.

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

My Thoughts: When I first started reading Evicted I was a little concerned, thinking my background in real estate would impede my judgment, and I’d come out with an extremely biased review. The introduction gave me the impression that there would be a variety of stories contained in the book however, I did feel there was nothing unexpected.  I struggle to admit I didn’t have much empathy for most of the people, however, I abhor the condition of the homes they lived in.

This might not be the best book for me to review but I picked it up because I recently started working at a small company in real estate development which helps with low-income housing and I was looking to gain a better understanding of the reality but also because this was one of Goodreads 2016 Nonfiction nominees.  While I do feel the stories in the book were what one would expect I also feel Matthew did a wonderful job of keeping me engaged enough to get through the book to bring me to the conclusion.

What I need to take into consideration is that in ’09 Milwaukee had the 4th highest poverty rate in the US for major cities.  The year prior they ranked at 11 which is still high on the list.  I need to not look at this book in a way to nitpick the details but to take this in as a big picture economic and social issue.  The reality is that the real estate aspect of these stories is just the result of a bigger issue in play.

The final part of the book, Matthew takes the time to not only ask questions but give at least partial solutions to the issues in play and how he thinks it will change things.   He and I may have some conflicting thoughts, or perhaps I have questions not answered, I do agree changes need to be made and I am thankful he took the time to write this book and feel everyone should take the time to read this.


Note:  I’d like to say more but I feel like it might ruin the experience of the book if you decide to pick it up.  …and I want to prevent myself from hopping up on a soapbox.  If you do pick this up, please reach out! I’d love to have a conversation more in depth.


3 thoughts on “Review Time: Evicted Poverty and Profit in the American City

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