Update: Update on Desmond

May 14, 2023 | Debater Resources

Debaters should be aware of Matthew Desmond’s book Poverty, by America, which contains the claim that the United States is “the richest country on earth, with more poverty than any other advanced democracy.

Writing in City Journal, Kevin Corinth serves up a devastating critique, including this:

Desmond opens with a failed attempt to define and measure poverty. In a chapter titled “The Kind of Problem Poverty is,” he starts with two anecdotes. The first features a hardworking 55-year-old father who snorts speedballs (a mixture of cocaine and other drugs) to stay awake during his double shifts. The second recounts the struggles of a homeless and severely mentally ill woman. Though harrowing, such stories do not represent “the kind of problem poverty is.” The vast majority of poor people don’t abuse illegal drugs, don’t work double shifts or even full-time jobs, and aren’t homeless. Among poor adults aged 18 to 64, less than 10 percent worked full-time, year-round in 2021. Less than 2 percent of poor people are homeless at any point in time

Corinth concludes:

Poverty, by America offers an egregiously incorrect understanding of the nature and causes of poverty in the United States, rendering its proposed solutions unproductive.

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