The Working Poor by David Shipler was so interesting that it deserves its own post.
In his introduction, Shipler states that both liberals and conservatives will find something to disagree with in his book. Indeed, The Working Poor blurs the black and white line that
wants to place the blame for being poor either entirely on the individual or entirely on society. Shipler’s lucid writing relates his thorough investigation into the lives of the working poor and highlights the many intersecting causes of poverty. These causes are cyclical, one thing leading to another and that leading back to the first. While you can sometimes pinpoint a bad decision made by an individual, you can rarely place the blame for the individual’s poverty entirely on that one bad decision. There will be a series of bad decisions intersecting with circumstances out of the individual’s control, some of which are indeed caused by poor governmental and beaureaucratic systems. Not only did Shipler observe and talk to many poor people, but he also interviewed many people who work with or hire the poor. This aspect of his book was quite enlightening and highlights that oftentimes the employer is stuck paying low wages due to competition and the risk of going out of business. In the last chapter, Shipler discusses the future and the possible ways in which society could address the social problem of poverty, with truly thoughtful ideas which really make the points that there are no easy solutions, and that a split down the middle into liberal and conservative is not necessarily going to help the problem. The Working Poor really made me think about issues in a new way and I highly recommend it.