Summary of The Working Poor

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The Working Poor book summary


9 Overall

7 Applicability

9 Innovation

10 Style


In spite of grueling hours and brutal conditions, hard work is no guarantee of prosperity in the American economy. So writes journalist David Shipler in this exhaustive study of the folks left behind by the American economic boom. Shipler talks to factory workers in New Hampshire, farm workers in North Carolina and garment workers in California. He paints a picture of a predatory economy with little room for the unsophisticated and unskilled. This work, which was nominated for a prestigious National Book Critics’ Circle Award, is ambitious in its scope and compelling in its detail. Some readers, however, might chafe at Shipler’s refusal to accept either liberal or conservative formulas: after presenting ample evidence of the poor’s own culpability for their plight, however partial, he blames both an indifferent society and family dysfunction for poverty. strongly recommends this sweeping study to employers and to anyone interested in the seemingly intractable gap between rich and poor.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why hard work doesn’t guarantee an escape from poverty;
  • Why conventional thinking about poverty is overly simplistic; and
  • What obstacles some impoverished workers face.

About the Author

David K. Shipler reported for The New York Times from 1966 to 1988, working in Saigon, Moscow, Jerusalem and Washington, D.C. He is the author of four books, including Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Shipler has been a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and has taught at Princeton University, American University and Dartmouth College.



American Myth or American Anti-Myth?
America’s unprecedented economic boom has left behind large numbers of the population. These low-wage workers lack the education and technical or social skills to participate in the society’s economic opportunities. Labeled the "working poor," these...

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