The Voices of Poverty was a project begun in 2011. The stories recorded on this site served as the starting-point for Sasha Abramsky’s new book, The American Way of Poverty: How the Other Half Still Lives.
Fifty years after Michael Harrington published his groundbreaking book The Other America, chronicling the lives of people excluded from the Age of Affluence, poverty in America is back with a vengeance. Today, it is made up of both the long-term chronically poor and new working poor—the tens of millions of people who, their lives shaped by financial insecurity, are paying the price for a fractured economy and an ever more dysfunctional political system.
In The American Way of Poverty, Abramsky brings the effects of economic inequality out of the shadows, shining a light on this national travesty and, ultimately, suggesting ways for moving toward a fairer and more equitable social contract. For Abramsky, poverty is not a tragedy – it is a scandal, with all-too-tangible consequences. Rather than simply telling the reader that poverty has become the scourge of the new century and that inequality in America is worse than it has been since the 1920s, he delves into the stories of the people around the country who are struggling to survive, describing the shattered lives behind the often overwhelming poverty statistics.
Exploring everything from housing policy to wage protections and affordable higher education, the book offers pragmatic, and imaginative, reforms that, taken as a whole, amount to a blueprint for a reinvigorated War on Poverty and a reimagined sense of community.
The work builds off of one of Abramsky’s previous books, Breadline USA: The Hidden Scandal of American Hunger and How to Fix It. That book explored what hunger looked, and felt, like in early recession-era America, documenting low-income communities in profound crisis, and the impact of that crisis on millions of American families’ food intake.
The American Way of Poverty is aimed at a general readership. In telling these stories, Abramsky’s hope is to bring alive, and shed light on, people left voiceless, left invisible, by a culture that has done everything possible in recent years to ignore its own poor, invisible, millions.
“Sasha Abramsky takes us deep into the long dark night of poverty in America, and it’s a harrowing trip. His research and remarkable insights have resulted in a book that is stunning in its intensity.”
—Bob Herbert, Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos and former Op-Ed columnist for the New York Times
“This urgent and compassionate inquiry breaks the pact of silence in which politicians refuse to talk about poverty and journalists refuse to investigate it. The spirit of Studs Terkel lives on in Sasha Abramsky. He listens to ordinary Americans speak hauntingly about their struggles to survive in a social welfare system designed by Franz Kafka. Every page reports an outrage, a chord in what might have become a requiem for the American Dream, were it not for Abramsky’s conviction that change is possible. In addition to being one of the country’s foremost journalists he is also a lucid advocate, presenting and analyzing the policies that can – if we demand them - make tomorrow better not just for the poor, but for everyone.”
—Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing