Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer and Timothy J. Nelson
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.
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.
Praise for The Injustice of Place
“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… the authors exemplify the best of social science today.”
–Raj Chetty, MacArthur Fellow and Professor of Economics, Harvard University
“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: Poverty and Profit in the American City
“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.”
-Mona Hanna-Attisha, Flint pediatrician and author of What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City
“Incisive, surprising, enraging, and hopeful, The Injustice of Place is the book on poverty we’ve needed all along.”
-Reuben Miller, MacArthur Fellow and author of Halfway Home: Race, Punishment and the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration
Index of Deep Disadvantage
To understand disadvantage across the U.S., researchers developed an Index of Deep Disadvantage using the same data for both counties and cities, which allows for direct comparison. This index represents a holistic look at disadvantage, using health indicators (life expectancy, low infant birth weight), poverty metrics (rates of poverty and deep poverty), and social mobility data (Opportunity Insights Mobility Metrics).
This measure of disadvantage is complemented by local perspectives that provide a deeper understanding of America’s most vulnerable communities. By painting a vivid portrait of the conditions in the nation’s most disadvantaged communities, the index not only uncovers what factors drive disparities, but it can help pinpoint where policymakers, state and local leaders, and residents can take action to improve health, well-being, and opportunity for all.