$2.00 A Day: A Chilling Look at the 1 in 25 American Families Living in Deep Poverty


Image result for $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America
(c) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

$2.00 per person a day is the global poverty level that the World Bank uses to measure poverty in developing nations. In the wealthiest nation in the world, our own United States, $2.00 barely buys a hamburger or a soda.

Yet according to $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, a bleak, riveting ethnography by sociologists Kathryn Edin and Luke Schaefer, a growing number of American citizens are relegated to this level of deep poverty. In fact, in 2011 there were 1.5 million American families, including 3 million children living on this income. That’s 4% of all households with children in the U.S.

To give you a point of comparison, here are a few related U.S. poverty levels:

  • $16.50 per person / day : The U.S. poverty line for family of three in 2011
  • $8.30 per person / day : The U.S. “deep poverty” line in 2011

How could a family possibly survive on that miniscule amount of cash? Why can’t they seem to get a paying job? Where is welfare and government assistance in all this?

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“How Do Writers Make a Living?” and Other Formidable Questions

Something mysterious seems to happen every time I sit down and try to put order to my creative impulses. Two hours disappear, yet my word doc is blank. My recent browser history overflows with articles titled “Are MFA programs really worth it?” and “10 SEO Tips all Content Strategists Should Know” and “The 5 Secrets to Increasing Your Productivity.” I’m suddenly years-deep into the blog of a “designer and mother of 6″ who somehow blogs for a living and summers in France (is her husband rich? Does she have a rotation of nannies? I cannot sleep until I find out). In a flash of anxiety-induced impulse shopping, I purchase an annual subscription to AWP (not a bad idea, but by no means built into my budget and don’t I already have enough to read?), and several books that profess to unlock hidden paths to writerly wealth (they got published, so they must have something worthwhile to say, right?).

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Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes Recipe from Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron. Photo courtesy of The Guardiannora ephron heartburn quote

In an earlier post, I recommended Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, the story of a faltering marriage that is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and is based on Ephron’s marriage to Carl Bernstein. But the book is more than just a good read with a witty, brilliantly-crafted narrator; it’s chock-full of delicious-sounding recipes I am aching to try, ranging from the more traditional to ones I’ve never heard of, like this lima bean and pears dish.

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, it’s the perfect time to try out a new version of those classic holiday dishes. Why not impress your literary-minded friends and family with a recipe and words from a famous author?

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11 Excellent Books You Can Read in a Day

This guy has the right idea.
This guy has the right idea. © Alexandre Dulaunoy

If you’re an informal member of the 52-book challenge like me, you might be scrabbling to catch up to that week 46 mark. Even us voracious readers get distracted by the latest episode of Downton Abbey or holiday gift shopping on Etsy.

So you need a few quick reads but don’t want to sacrifice on quality? Add these novellas and bite-sized memoirs to your reading list. Better yet, go get them right now – several of these are completely free and kindle-ready!

From short-and-(not so?) sweet classics like Frankenstein to contemporary masterpieces like Sleep Donation, here are 10 of my favorite under 200-page books.

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Poehler’s New Book Offers Heartfelt Advice and Lots of Laughs

© Harper Collins

Amy Poehler starts off her new book, Yes Please, with a typical tongue-in-cheek warning. She tells us “writing is hard” and that she “had no business agreeing to write this book.” She then admits this self-deprecating perspective, while genuine, might also be a ploy to lower our expectations before dazzling us with her “sneaky insights about life and work.”

It’s this spirit of playfulness and sincerity that Amy Poehler embodies for me. Ever since I became a Parks and Rec regular, and learned Poehler was the real-life (now ex) partner of the idiotic but lovable Gob Bluth, I’ve counted myself a fan. Who can resist this infectious cackle? How can anyone not love such a down-to earth star who spends her spare time empowering young women?

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Class Matters: Insights on Class Issues in America from the New York Times

In lieu of taking a summer graduate sociology class on Social Inequality, I’ve been slowly working my way through the course syllabus. First up on the reading list is Class Matters, a compilation of New York Times articles on class issues and the growing disparity between the rich and poor in America.  Published in 2005, the book documents our increasing income gap and the growing stagnation of social mobility even before the Great Recession of recent years.

While I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that there are economic (among other) inequalities in America, Class Matters lays out evidence of a recent decline in social mobility, or the movement of people between socioeconomic classes. In other words, the American dream that promises those from all walks of life a fair chance at happiness and prosperity is becoming more a fantasy each year.  In comparison to other countries, reporter Janny Scott states, social mobility in the U.S. is no higher than in Britain or France, and is lower than in Canada and some of those mythic Scandinavian countries. We outrank developing countries like Brazil, where poverty status is a life sentence, but that’s hardly a comparison to high-five about.  Instead of moving forward, toward a future where every hard-working individual has equal opportunity-access, we seem to be slowly floating backwards, towards more polarized, static socioeconomic levels.

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Right and Wrong in 40 Countries: Pew’s Global Attitudes Survey Tracks Values by Country

One of my absolute favorite subreddits is currently r/dataisbeautiful, a community of data lovers that brings you a daily stream of interesting research in digestible, visual bites. On any given day, you may find infographics on which news topics female writers are most likely to cover, attitudes towards Jewish and Muslim peoples in different countries, or even one couple’s dedicated logging of sexual activity over a year (a dream for Kinsey, or any modern day sexologist).

Most recently, r/dataisbeautiful brought me the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Survey, which asked respondents in 40 different countries to state their moral attitudes on eight issues. These eight topics, which are often the subject of moral debates, ranged from homosexuality to premarital sex to alcohol use. For each topic, participants answered whether they found it morally acceptable, morally unacceptable, or not a moral issue. The results give us a big picture view of how value systems differ by country and by cultural region.

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