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The Working Poor: Invisible in America by…
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The Working Poor: Invisible in America (edition 2005)

by David K. Shipler (Author)

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1,2182311,321 (3.97)26
"As David K. Shipler makes clear in this study, the invisible poor are engaged in the activity most respected in American ideology - hard, honest work. But their version of the American Dream is a nightmare: low paying, dead-end jobs; the profound failure of government to improve upon decaying housing, health care, and education; the failure of families to break the patterns of child abuse and substance abuse. Shipler exposes the interlocking, problems by taking us into the sorrowful, infuriating, courageous lives of the poor - white and black, Asian and Latino, citizens and immigrants. We encounter them every day, for they do jobs essential to the American economy." "We meet drifting farmworkers in North Carolina, exploited garment workers in New Hampshire, illegal immigrants trapped in the steaming kitchens of Los Angeles restaurants, addicts who struggle into productive work from the cruel streets of the nation's capital - each life another aspect of a confounding, far-reaching urgent national crises. And unlike most works on poverty, this one delves into the calculations of some employers as well - their razor-thin profits, their anxieties about competition from abroad, their frustrations in finding qualified workers."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)
Member:benkroll
Title:The Working Poor: Invisible in America
Authors:David K. Shipler (Author)
Info:Vintage (2005), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages
Collections:nonfiction
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The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler

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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
If you don't know much about poverty, this book may prove useful to you, but go in with eyes open. Shipler is at his best when he's letting the poor folks he speaks to speak for themselves. However, he is very much a liberal, and while he's talking with poor people we also get sympathetic interviews with bosses, managers, job trainers, "tough love" social workers, and the like. He praises people who shape themselves (and allow themselves to be shaped) into well-behaved, obedient workers set on climbing into higher levels of workplace hierarchy. His solution for the plight of the working poor is very much reformist and government-centered - the poor should overwhelm the rich at the voting booth, and his critique of how successful that has been/could be is nonexistent. The answer comes not from below - from poor people organizing themselves and building power - but from government programs, corporations, politicians, and benevolent gentry such as himself and his target audience. Capitalism needs to be changed, but is essentially good. It depends on poverty - Shipler says so quite uncritically - the issue for him is that the poor are treated better and given the opportunity to get ahead so others may replace them. If any of this made you cringe, you might be better off finding something with a little more teeth. ( )
  2dgirlsrule | Jul 12, 2020 |
ok so i liked this book. it is mass-market muckraking. the solutions at the end assume a market economy (which is totally safe for mass-market i guess!) so it ends up being a set of harrowing tales of life in or near poverty with the end result being, "well, it's all connected, so we need more funding for ... everything." which like yes! but also, hey, a living wage? he almost-kinda-doesn't really mention the possibility that walmart etc. paying wages as low as they can possibly get away with because the social safety can and will and does step in with food stamps and other subsidies that make this possible! so work can be an answer, it is not THE answer, you know?

our economy is utterly fucked and by couching his solutions within the system after so much (deserved!) hand-wringing about the Life of the Poor, it left me cold.

it didn't mean to be more than this, this, this, told a dozen different ways: "Workers at the edge of poverty are essential to America’s prosperity, but their well-being is not treated as an integral part of the whole. Instead, the forgotten wage a daily struggle to keep themselves from falling over the cliff. It is time to be ashamed."

i SO understand the impulse to set context and propose solutions but they were so tepid! agh! anyway, read this. anecdotal evidence is powerful. ( )
  mirnanda | Dec 27, 2019 |
Very touching and poignant, this book will tug at your heartstrings. It is a call to action for a wide span of problems that plague the destitute and impoverished, especially those in America, since that is the main focus of the book. Some people do want to work but lack the job skills necessary to be marketable, or they have a string of bad luck, or they made some terrible choices. Whatever the case may be, digging out of the hole called poverty is much harder than it sounds.

Politicians on both the right and the left of the divide might have some ideas, but Shipler is here to tell you that problems can't be generalized to a whole population. Perhaps they say that the person should just "get a job," but without soft skills, hard skills and contacts already in the labor force, that is a daunting task. Even if someone does get a job, it is hard to live off of 7 dollars an hour, and in most cases that puts people off of even trying, since welfare is just easier. Not because they don't want to work, but in some cases, it jeopardizes everything they were trying for.

However, this can't be waved away by raising wages, because as Shipler points out, raising the wages forces the prices up because that money to pay the workers has to come from somewhere. This leads to a massive sweep throughout the economy that puts people back where they started. People won't be able to buy the dresses they sew or the cars that they make.

You could merely get people education, but it isn't very easy to educate people that are hungry. You could give them food stamps, but that won't ensure that the right sort of food enters their mouths. You could educate them on the food they need to eat, but it's difficult to communicate across a language barrier or a racial divide. It might be that the children of these people can learn English better and take advantage of citizenship to the US, but it doesn't change the fact that the slum they live in has terrible schools. The terrible schools would like to get better funding and spend more time with students, but when you have 40 students to a classroom it is difficult to focus on one. Also schools have the whole standardized test thing to follow, and they just can't devote that much energy to the individual. Not to mention the fact that school funding is based on property values.

So basically, this is a horrible problem with no clear cut solution. Now the example in the above paragraph isn't to say that only non-white immigrants are stuck in poverty, far from it... that was only an example of the problems affecting these people.

Anyway, I recommend this book. It is quite touching and good. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Very insightful and familiar. Free of judgement and more observational than I had expected, the biggest idea that is presented early on, is that poverty or struggle isn't normally based on one thing, but a collection of events...some chicken/egg, but still a different way of thinking. ( )
  Bricker | Oct 25, 2017 |
This book is nearly 10 years old now, so parts are certainly a little out of date (especially the section on healthcare in the final chapter). For the most part, though, what is most depressing is how little things have changed.

Whether the poor are native born or immigrant, white, black, Asian, or Hispanic, they face a stream of bureaucratic, housing, childcare, transportation, and healthcare crises--and one of which can cause an employment crisis. Meanwhile, the schools failed many of them and are, in turn, failing their children (often because the parents don't trust teachers and administration based on their own experiences). Hunger and chronic seemingly minor health conditions (especially asthma and allergies, as well as learning disabilities and poor eyesight) can strongly affect a student's ability to learn--things that, for even a slightly more prosperous family, would be solvable. Allergies and asthma can be helped by moving to a roach- and carpet-free apartment, glasses fix vision problems, and demanding proper school services help with learning problems. Many of the poor cannot simply do these things without risking jobs due to transportation or missed wages from time off.

Social services are often weak--but many do not even receive what they qualify for. The hoops that require jumping can be arduous (and require more time off work), and staff can be rude and difficult and shame recipients.

Drugs and alcohol pull many of the working poor farther down--as do the childrearing practices employed by overtired and hungry parents. Shipler discusses how patchy services do not help because everything is interconnected--a child's asthma results on missed school, lack of health insurance results in no meds and worse attacks and more missed school, a doctor's appt results in hours lost at work (or a job lost), and the coackroaches in the cheap apartment are the root of all of these issues. But the family cannot move because there is nowhere else for them to go that is on a busline and moving is expensive.

So, still an interesting book, if a bit out of date due to its age. Also, depressing. ( )
  Dreesie | Sep 13, 2017 |
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"As David K. Shipler makes clear in this study, the invisible poor are engaged in the activity most respected in American ideology - hard, honest work. But their version of the American Dream is a nightmare: low paying, dead-end jobs; the profound failure of government to improve upon decaying housing, health care, and education; the failure of families to break the patterns of child abuse and substance abuse. Shipler exposes the interlocking, problems by taking us into the sorrowful, infuriating, courageous lives of the poor - white and black, Asian and Latino, citizens and immigrants. We encounter them every day, for they do jobs essential to the American economy." "We meet drifting farmworkers in North Carolina, exploited garment workers in New Hampshire, illegal immigrants trapped in the steaming kitchens of Los Angeles restaurants, addicts who struggle into productive work from the cruel streets of the nation's capital - each life another aspect of a confounding, far-reaching urgent national crises. And unlike most works on poverty, this one delves into the calculations of some employers as well - their razor-thin profits, their anxieties about competition from abroad, their frustrations in finding qualified workers."--BOOK JACKET.

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