cover image The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America

The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America

Kathryn J. Edin, H. Luke Shaefer, and Timothy Nelson. Mariner, $29.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-063-23949-4

Edin and Shaefer (coauthors, $2 a Day, and, respectively, a sociologist and University of Michigan public policy professor) team up with public affairs scholar Nelson (Doing the Best I Can) to reframe the history of poverty in the U.S. in this essential study. Ranking communities on the basis of income, birth weights, life expectancy, and intergenerational mobility, they find that the country’s most disadvantaged areas are rural ones—Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, the Tobacco Belt in South Carolina, and south Texas. The authors argue that from the 18th through the 20th centuries these regions were intentionally treated by government policy as “internal colonies.” With economies based on resource extraction (coal, timber, cotton, etc.) and usually populated by majority people of color, these were places where labor was systematically exploited, elites controlled both local and state governments, and public services were meager. According to the authors, these regions “still retain, to a greater or lesser degree, features of the internal colonies they once were,” because of inherited problems such as local government corruption, lack of social infrastructure, and structural racism. This eye-opening account provides a powerful lens with which to view contemporary inequality in America. (Aug.)