Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Working Poor

According to the American Dream mythology, if you work hard you can support yourself and your family. David Shipler documents the fallacy of this myth through his profiles of some of America's working poor. The strength of this book is its balance in showing how many factors--including both societal factors and personal choices--contribute to working class poverty and, in turn, can lead to possible solutions. Through the individual stories of all varieties of the working poor (urban families, migrant workers, etc.), Shipler shows the interconnection of various factors that lead individuals into poverty and prevent them from working themselves out from under it. Affordable, safe housing, reliable transportation (public and otherwise), preventative health care, affordable and reliable childcare, the public educational system, family support, basic parenting skills--a deficiency in any of these areas can easily lead to a downward spiral that can affect every other area as well. And while in many cases poor choices by individuals contribute to the cycle, Shipler explains that the middle class may make the same choices but they are less devastating because they have a support system that includes family, education, knowledge of resources, and opportunities, that the working poor do not. I found this to be a very powerful book that deserves to be read by people of all backgrounds.

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