by Mathew Desmond explores the issue of poverty and how it is aprofit making avenue for some people. The book explores the idea ofpoverty and how it has been perceived in the society. The authorbrings about another perspective so as to explore the issue ofpoverty. His side of view is that poverty could be a creation of therich so that they can continue to benefit from the poor communitiesthrough putting them in a vulnerable position. The poor have beenseen to be of bad morals, but they could also be seen as impulsiveand irresponsible. On the other hand, the poor could simply belacking in the skills and ability to fit in the twenty-first centuryeconomy. This paper will explore the concepts discussed in the bookin depth and how the concept of poverty can be viewed from a widerperspective1.
Overviewof the Book
Thebook brings home the idea of evictions that are now a normal thing inmost American cities as opposed to the previous centuries. MathewDesmond writes the brilliant, heartbreaking book which shows what ishappening in the poorest neighborhoods in Milwaukee. He tells a storyof eight families on the edge. In the story, Arleen is a singleparent who is bringing up her two sons on the $29 a month thatremains after she pays for their rundown apartment2.There is also Scott who is a nurse hooked to heroin. Lamar is a manwithout legs and there are a bunch of boys in the neighborhood thatneeds to be looked after he tries to work his way out of debt. Thereis Vanetta who is stranded after her hours are cut. Desmond alsotells how all these families spend almost everything they earn onrent and all have fallen behind. Desmond shows how some of the peoplein these poor backgrounds are kicked out of their houses because oftheir inability to afford rent. This is what the book is all about,eviction and poverty3.
TheIssue of Poverty for the Poor and Profit for the Rich
Thebook by Desmond mainly has an ethnographic approach in the study ofthe low-income housing in the middle-sized city of Milwaukee,Wisconsin. From what is seen in the book, the people in theneighborhood are extremely poor, and there is also the issue of“sagging duplexes, fading morals, and 24-hour daycares”4.One might say that not a lot of money can be made from such aneighborhood since the people living there are destitute. However,the landlords make a lot of money from the trailers they have in thepoor neighborhood. For example, Tobin Charney makes a total of$400,000 a year out of his 131 trailers in Milwaukee5.The neighborhood has most landlords who are white except for SherrenaTarver who is the only black female land owner. These land owners inthe city make a good living out of the poor neighborhood. On theother hand, people living in these areas keep getting poorer becausethey spend most of what they earn on rent. Crime also increases inthe neighborhoods because people are idle and do not have a means oflivelihood. This amount of income from rent is enough for a person tolive a luxurious life and even afford holidays and travel to variousparts of the world6.
Whenpeople understand that poverty can bring profit to them, they wouldlike to keep the situation that way so that they can keep benefiting.These landlords other wealthy persons would do anything to ensurethat poverty levels remain high so that they can benefit. An excuseas to why poverty levels are so high is that the poor are lazy.However, some of these people are very hard working, and try tomanage multiple jobs a day so as to afford that rent in Milwaukee.The low wage employment also contributes to the poverty levels andthe inability of the people living in Milwaukee to move to betterneighborhoods.
Thereis also the issue of the single black women with the responsibilityof bringing up children in the violent and chaotic environment. Thepeople living here have also been born and brought up in thisneighborhood and have therefore experienced the violence and poorlifestyle in Milwaukee. The individuals who are seen as worthless inthe neighborhood are the ones affording the rich in cities aluxurious lifestyle indirectly7.These people also struggle to deal with their issues and live adignified life. This is the aspect that is not seen by most people oraddressed in literature. These people have a sense of humor andkindness that shows that humanity still exists in such dilapidatedplaces. The major issue that is bringing these people downconsidering their efforts is house rent. The standard measureindicates that house rent should not be more than 30% a person’ssalary. However, for the population in this neighborhood, they spendover 70% on rent8.This is because the landlords take advantage of their poor status andthe fact that they do not have many alternatives9.These people make the effort to work and are not lazy contrary to thebelief. Since the rent is usually high for these residents in thisneighborhood, they either get evicted by the landlords or fall behindon rent. There are also dubious ways used by landlords to get moneyfrom tenants, and these include demanding repairs10.
Itis important to note that the poor are at risk of being evicted eventhough numerous benefits from the government hardly get to them. Forexample, there are the disability benefits that are supposed to helppeople with disabilities live a more dignified and comfortable life.However, the poor usually don`t get these benefits, and they end upbenefiting those who live in better neighborhoods people who canactually afford a comfortable lifestyle. Other government programsthat are meant to help the poor include welfare and the earned-incometax credit which end up going directly to the hands of landlords11.There is also the scarcity of public housing and housing vouchers. Itis also paramount to note that three in four who qualify for housingassistance do not get it. Some of these issues make it difficult forthe people to get out of the poor neighborhoods. In other words, suchbenefits and factors are controlled by the rich so as to ensure thatthe poor remain poor. Through this, the rich can keep manipulatingthe poor and benefiting from them especially through the high houserent rates12.
TheIssue of Evictions
Mostof the victims of evictions are women, and this is because they arepaid less than their male counterparts even if they are doing thesame job. They are also not in a better position to deal with theirlandlords since they are in manual forms of employment from whichthey pay house rent13.Many women are also raising children. Most are single mothers andthey have all the burdens of childbearing and getting biggerapartments is a problem since many landlords do not like renting tofamilies with young children. When all these factors are incombination, there is a colossal likelihood that such a single motherwill be evicted. The fathers of their children are sometimes notsupportive, and this makes it difficult for the mothers to affordmaintenance and rent for their houses14.
Desmondin his book brings out the perspective that the housing plays a rolein creating and reinforcing white privilege. In Milwaukee, most ofthe people who suffer housing discrimination are black while thewhites get an advantage because of their racial dividend. The blackpeople also have the worst housing in the worst neighborhoods.Eviction also affects black women the most, and this makes life evenharder. Despite this, the rich continue to ensure that the povertylevels continue rising so that they can reap the benefits. Thegovernment is also doing nothing to ensure that the poor do not spendso much on housing. Also, the poor also do not get the benefits thatthey are entitled to, and this causes the poverty to persist and thechances of being evicted also increase15.
Banerjee,Abhijit V., and Maitreesh Ghatak. "Eviction threats andinvestment incentives." Journalof Development Economics74, no. 2 (2004): 469-488.
Desmond,Matthew. "Eviction and the Reproduction of urban poverty1."AmericanJournal of Sociology118, no. 1 (2012): 88-133.
Desmond,Matthew. :Poverty and profit in the American city.Crown, 2016.
Durand-Lasserve,Alain. "Market-driven Evictions and Displacements: Implicationsfor the Perpetuation of Informal." InformalSettlements: A Perpetual Challenge?(2006): 207.
Seabrook,Jeremy. Theno-nonsense guide to world poverty.New Internationalist, 2007.
Stephenson,Adam. "A Review of" Eviction: poverty and profit in theAmerican city", By Matthew Desmond." (2016): 1-3.
Taylor,Helen. "The principles of housing." (2016): 894-896.
Turnbull,Geoffrey K. "Squatting, eviction and development." RegionalScience and Urban Economics38, no. 1 (2008): 1-15.
1 Desmond, Matthew. : Poverty and profit in the American city. Crown, 2016.
3 Desmond, Matthew. "Eviction and the Reproduction of urban poverty1." American Journal of Sociology 118, no. 1 (2012): 88-133.
4 Desmond, Matthew. : Poverty and profit in the American city. Crown, 2016.
5 Desmond, Matthew. "Eviction and the Reproduction of Urban poverty1." American Journal of Sociology 118, no. 1 (2012): 88-133.
6 Stephenson, Adam. "A Review of" Eviction: poverty and profit in the American city." By Matthew Desmond." (2016): 1-3.
8 Banerjee, Abhijit V., and Maitreesh Ghatak. "Eviction threats and investment incentives." Journal of Development Economics 74, no. 2 (2004): 469-488.
10 Durand-Lasserve, Alain. "Market-driven Evictions and Displacements: Implications for the Perpetuation of Informal." Informal Settlements: A Perpetual Challenge? (2006): 207.
11 Turnbull, Geoffrey K. "Squatting, eviction, and development." Regional Science and Urban Economics 38, no. 1 (2008): 1-15.
12 Taylor, Helen. "The principles of housing." (2016): 894-896.
13 Seabrook, Jeremy. The no-nonsense guide to world poverty. New Internationalist, 2007.
14 Turnbull, Geoffrey K. "Squatting, eviction and development." Regional Science and Urban Economics 38, no. 1 (2008): 1-15.
15 Seabrook, Jeremy. The no-nonsense guide to world poverty. New Internationalist, 2007.