In A People’s History of Poverty in America, political scientist Stephen Pimpare brings the human lives and real-life stories of those who struggle with poverty in America to the foreground, vividly describing life as poor and welfare-reliant Americans experience it, from the big city to the rural countryside. Prodigiously researched, A People’s History of Poverty in America unearths rich, poignant, and often surprising testimonies—both heart-wrenching and humorous—that range from the early days of the United States to the present day. Pimpare shows us how the poor have found food, secured shelter, and created community, and, most important, he illuminates their battles for dignity and respect in the face of the judgment, control, and disdain that are all too often the price they must pay for charity and government aid.
In telling these hidden stories, Pimpare argues eloquently for a fundamental rethinking of poverty, one that includes both a more nuanced understanding of the history of the American welfare state, and a meaningful—and truly accurate—new definition of the poverty line. Hailed by Kirkus Reviews as an “illuminating history of America’s poor” and a “useful counter against those who blame the poor for their bad luck,” A People’s History of Poverty in America reminds us that poverty is not in itself a moral failure, but our failure to understand it may well be.