The Evicted book by Matthew Desmond may be the most important nonfiction book written in years. And it’s the book I didn’t want to read.
But then my job pushed me into a corner.
Since it was first published, one of my employer’s executives talked about “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” to anyone who would listen. Never was in a meeting or on a call with this executive when he didn’t mention the book.
Then this executive organized a conference for several hundred housing industry leaders. Desmond was the keynote speaker. As a member of our company’s communications team, I would cover the conference and Desmond’s talk.
The sands of my procrastination hourglass ran out. I had to read the Evicted book. Thank God I did.
Evicted by Matthew Desmond may be the most important book published in years. It’s no wonder Desmond has a Pulitzer for his work on the book. This is a terrific piece of journalism.
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About the Evicted Book
The book focuses on the impact of foreclosures in Milwaukee in the wake of the 2008 economic crash. But Desmond provides information supporting his contention that the plight of Milwaukee’s poor is no different than it is in other American cities.
Desmond was a Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin at Madison while researching for what would become Evicted. Not satisfied with academic research, he lived as a tenant in Milwaukee’s low-income neighborhoods.
It’s this investigative journalism that allows Desmond to bring America’s housing affordability crisis to life.
We meet people with names like Arleen, Scott, and Lamar. These are people with families and stories. These are people barely surviving.
Many of the people in the Evicted book have made mistakes. Their mistakes, though, are not too dissimilar from yours or mine. But for family, friends, money, race, education, or any other number of factors, you and I could be one of the people in Evicted.
Because that’s what I found most surprising in Evicted. I realized how close I’d been to becoming someone who could have been in Evicted.
It took me eight years to graduate college. I filled those eight years between high school and earning my degree with repeated poor personal decisions. I did everything I could to ruin my life financially.
But I had a buffer protecting me from myself: My parents. Mom and dad had just enough money to keep me from falling into financial obscurity.
I never quite appreciated this part of my past until reading the Evicted book. In many ways, the only difference between the people in Evicted and myself are my parents.
Highlights from the Evicted Book
The Evicted book contains jaw-dropping stats and numbers. Below are just a few examples of the incredible information you’ll find in “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City”.
- “Today, over 1 in 5 of all renting families in the country spends half of its income on housing.”
- “Since 2000, the cost of fuels and utilities had risen by more than 50 percent, thanks to increasing global demand and the expiration of price caps. In a typical year, almost 1 in 5 poor renting families nationwide missed payments and received a disconnection notice from their utility company.”
- “In the vast majority of cases (83 percent), landlords who received a nuisance citation for domestic violence responded by either evicting the tenants or by threatening to evict them for future police calls.”
- “Since 1997, welfare stipends in Milwaukee and almost everywhere else have not budged, even as housing costs have soared.”
- “Between 2007 and 2010, the average white family experienced an 11 percent reduction in wealth, but the average black family lost 31 percent of its wealth. The average Hispanic family lost 44 percent.”
- “In many housing courts around the country, 90 percent of landlords are represented by attorneys, and 90 percent of tenants are not.”
- “In 2008…federal expenditures for direct housing assistance totaled less than $40.2 billion, but homeowner tax benefits exceeded $171 billion. That number, $171 billion, was equivalent to the 2008 budgets for the Department of Education, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Agriculture combined.”