On Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, Politics for the People spent an hour in conversation with Dr. Kathryn Edin, one of the co-authors of $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.
You can listen to the whole conversation at the end of this post or take a look at the highlights below.
Dr. Edin is one of the country’s leading researchers focused on understanding poverty in America. She is a qualitative and mixed-method researcher who has studied welfare, the working poor, family life and the social context of poverty to provide new insights into the lives of the poor in America. She is the author of several books.
In $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, Kathy and her co-author H. Luke Shaefer uncover the growing phenomenon of Americans living with virtually no cash, on $2.00 a day or less.
I think Kathy’s body of work is critically important in demystifying poverty and busting through some of the anti-poor, misguided and commonly held beliefs about poverty in America and the impact those beliefs have on public policy.
Give a listen to my introduction of Dr. Edin and our opening conversation where Kathy lays out how she uncovered the growing numbers of Americans living on $2.00 a day. I asked how she picked $2.00 a day as the marker for extreme poverty. She shared with us that they wanted to “…choose a number that would have some resonance with the way we measure extreme poverty in other countries….$2.00 is one of the rubrics the World Bank uses to measure extreme poverty in developing nations.”
Dr. Edin shares with us her approach of spending time in four different parts of the country: Chicago, Cleveland, Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta to meet Americans struggling to survive on $2.00 a day and to answer four questions: Was this real? How do people end up here? What’s it like? What are the consequences?
In our next clip, two Politics for the People members ask Dr. Edin their questions. Dr. Jessie Fields asks, “In your extensive look at poverty why do you think America, the most financially advanced country, has so profoundly failed to address poverty? ” Kathy talks about her time in the Mississippi Delta and how it changed her. Speaking of her time with Tabitha Hicks, she says, “…I’d never met anyone so hungry….At one point I screwed up the courage to ask her, what does it feel like to be this hungry and she said,
Well, it feels like you want to be dead, because it’s peaceful being dead.”
Dr. Edin goes on to say that it is “…the kind of separation we see in the United States that blinds us to the poor.”
Catana Barnes shares a personal experience in trying to access the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program in Nevada, and asks Dr. Edin how many families are actually able to receive meaningful assistance there.
You can listen below or by clicking this link:
Harry Kresky asks in the next section, “Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders campaign raised the issue of income inequality. From a policy, political and moral point of view, what is the relationship between that approach and ending poverty?” Check out what Kathy Edin has to say including her comments, “Is society so unequal that the poor can’t participate? Is society so unequal that the poor are are no longer assigned a valuable place in society?”
Nicole Diaz, a psychology student at Bronx Community College asks Dr. Edin why she decided to write a book about the problems poor people are dealing with and what she felt as she was writing and doing her research. Kathy powerfully shares her experiences and says, “It’s been the greatest privilege really of my career to write about and represent these families.” Give a listen:
Our final question of the evening came from Tiani Coleman who spoke about her own experiences with family members going through poverty and how difficult it was. She asked Dr. Edin to talk about how she is able to enter people’s lives and earn their trust. Give a listen to their conversation:
You can listen to the full recording of the Politics for the People conversation with Dr. Kathryn Edin below:
POLITICS for THE PEOPLE
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