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Publisher's Summary

Nobody who works hard should be poor in America, writes Pulitzer Prize-winner David Shipler. Clear-headed, rigorous, and compassionate, he journeys deeply into the lives of individual store clerks and factory workers, farm laborers and sweat-shop seamstresses, illegal immigrants in menial jobs, and Americans saddled with immense student loans and paltry wages. They are known as the working poor.

They perform labor essential to America's comfort. They are white and black, Latino and Asian - men and women in small towns and city slums trapped near the poverty line, where the margins are so tight that even minor setbacks can cause devastating chain reactions. Shipler shows how liberals and conservatives are both partly right - that practically every life story contains failure by both the society and the individual. Braced by hard fact and personal testimony, he unravels the forces that confine people in the quagmire of low wages. And unlike most works on poverty, this book also offers compelling portraits of employers struggling against razor-thin profits and competition from abroad.

With pointed recommendations for change that will challenge Republicans and Democrats alike, The Working Poor stands to make a difference.

©2004 David K. Shipler (P)2011 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“This is one of those seminal books that every American should read and read now.” ( The New York Times Book Review)
The Working Poor... should be required reading not just for every menber of Conbress, but for every eligible voter.” ( Washington Post Book World)
“The 'working poor' ought to be an oxymoron, because no one who works should be impoverished. In this thoughtful assessment of poverty in twenty-first century America, David Shipler shows why so many working Americans remain poor, and offers a powerful guide for how to resuscitate the American dream. A tour de force of a forgotten land.” (Robert B. Reich, University Professor, Brandeis University, and former U.S. Secretary of Labor)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • nancy
  • Redlands, CA, United States
  • 10-05-12

A Must Read Book for the Middle-Class

Would you listen to The Working Poor again? Why?

Yes, because there are many statistics and stories in it that I'd like to reference to others.

What other book might you compare The Working Poor to and why?

Ruby Payne's The Culture of Understanding Poverty

What does Peter Ganim bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

He did a fine job at voicing the various people highlighted in the book. Consequently, it was easy to keep them apart.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The part about the under-nourished children and day-care issues for working/welfare mothers was heart-rending. Shame on us for allowing this to happen in a country where we have so much.

Any additional comments?

The Working Poor very carefully explains the multitude of obstacles interfering with chronically poor American's inability to work their way into the middle class. Even though many of these deterrents are self-imposed, they are handicaps nevertheless. He also offers some sound solutions and inspirational programs that give a hand up and not just a hand out.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Depth, Breadth and Authenticity

The author was able to capture the joys and pains of the individual experiences, while compressing an complex topic into palatable portions. Thanks for telling MY story and enlightening me to the plight of many others!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Cynthia
  • Monrovia, California, United States
  • 07-28-12

Textbook Perfect Discussion of the Problem

When I purchased this, I was expecting a book closer to Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickle and Dimed: On (not) Getting by In America", or James D. Scurlock's "Maxed Out". Ehrenrich's and Scurlock's books are very good, but lightly touch on specific aspects of the problem.

I was pleased to find that "The Working Poor: Invisible in America" is a much more comprehensive and thoroughly researched book on the topic. In fact, it's so good, it really could be used in a college course on the subject.

At times, the author was bogged down in minute detail. The detail was appropriate, but sometimes wandered from the topic and was hard to follow.

I appreciated that this isn't a "those people" kind of book. When he uses real-life examples, Shipler knows and appreciates his subjects. He approaches them with clear eyes, neither deifying or demonizing them.

The performance was a little rough and slow. I would have appreciated a little faster narration.

8 of 12 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A must read

This book should be read in every high school in America. Many are oblivious to the realities of the so called American Dream. It’s a nightmare to many.

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it deserves a Nobel prize for the work

full of facts and stories of real people, analyze how poverty is connected to many factors and how difficult it might be for someone to get out of poverty if does not have the right tools and connections, how easy is for someone in the middle class without proper back up to fall under the horrendous situation of poverty.

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Very informative

This book is an eye opener and has placed a new meaning for life, work and education to me. A definite read for anyone to overcome poverty

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One of the best books on poverty

This is truly one of the most thorough, comprehensive, holistic views of poverty that I have ever read.

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Too partisan for my taste

I really looked forward to this book; however, the author and narrator both are too biased for me to feel as if this were scientifically based.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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You need this.

Great story, even considering I have some personal differences with the summary. I mainly award only 4 stars because Peter Ganim frequently sounds like a 60 minutes special devoid of emotion. Still a fantastic story.

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Hope to convince my children to read one day..

Book was so compelling because I recognized my journey from poverty in many of the stories... I'm also convinced we can do so much more but it will require us to see the commonality in our struggle for the American dream..