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Lowell Lecture

Matthew Desmond: Poverty, By America

Date & Time

Oct. 11, 2023 at 7 p.m.


Boston College - Gasson 100
140 Commonwealth Avenue Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
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Matthew Desmond

Presenting Organization

Boston College


Current Affairs


Avner Goldstein (, )

MacArthur “Genius” and Princeton sociologist Matthew Desmond was launched onto the national stage as an expert on contemporary American poverty with the publication of his Pulitzer Prize winning bestseller Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Combining years of embedded fieldwork with painstakingly gathered data, Evicted transformed our understanding of inequity and economic exploitation in America. A former member of the Harvard Society of Fellows, he is also the author of the award-winning book On the Fireline, the coauthor of two books on race, and the editor of a collection of studies on severe deprivation in America. He has written essays on educational inequality, dangerous work, political ideology, race and social theory, and the inner-city housing market. His work has been supported by the Gates, Horowitz, Ford, JBP, MacArthur, National Science, Russell Sage, and W.T. Grant Foundations, as well as the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. He is a Contributing Writer for The New York Times Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and The Chicago Tribune. Desmond’s latest book, the instant #1 New York Times bestseller Poverty, by America investigates why the United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?

In clear and compelling prose, Desmond draws on history research, and original reporting to conclude that poverty persists in this nation because the rest of us benefit from it. Those of us who are financially secure knowingly and unknowingly exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. Prioritizing the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, our welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Praised by Esquire as “another paradigm-shifting inquiry into America’s dark heart,” Poverty, by America introduces Desmond’s startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty: he calls on us to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom.

Cosponsored by the Boston College Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, the PULSE Program for Service Learning, and the Sociology Department.