New Paltz communally reads $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Written by Frances Marion Platt
Published in the New Paltz Times

(Photo by Lauren Thomas)

Photo by Lauren Thomas. Committee members from left to right: Darlene Davis, Sue Books, Charlene V. Martoni, Myra Sorin, Shelly Sherman, and Linda Welles.

One Book/One New Paltz, the annual joint community reading and discussion experience, returns to town with a week’s worth of activities from November 13 to 20. But this year it’s going to be a little different: Instead of the usual novel, the book selected by the One Book/One New Paltz Committee is a sobering non-fictional account of the lives of people living in extreme poverty. The 2016 Community Read is titled $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015). Continue reading



We hope to see you at the events we’ve planned for November. Remember to mark your calendars!

Sunday, 11/13 at 11am
Jewish Center: 30 North Chestnut Street
Rabbi Bill Strongin, spiritual leader of the Jewish Congregation of New Paltz, will lead this book discussion. Please feel free to bring a vegetarian dish to share.

Sunday, 11/13 from 7-8:30pm
Sojourner Truth Library Lobby, SUNY New Paltz

Gather in the library lobby to express your thoughts on the book and poverty in America through poetry, song, or any other creative outlet you choose. All are welcome. To sign up, CLICK HERE.

Monday, 11/14 from 11am-12:30pm
Honor’s Center, SUNY New Paltz

Examine the interplay between agency and structure within the book in this small-groups book discussion, led by Peter Kaufman, professor of sociology, and his students.

Monday, 11/14 from 4-5:30pm
Student Union Room 409, SUNY New Paltz

Listen as Anne R. Roschelle, professor of sociology, and Lisa A. Phillips, associate professor of digital media and journalism, discuss the book within the context of their academic disciplines.

Tuesday, 11/15 at 1pm
Elting Memorial Library: 93 Main Street
Anne R. Roschelle, professor of sociology and author of Struggling in the Land of Plenty, will talk about how homeless mothers in San Francisco engage in a variety of survival strategies to subsist in one of the most expensive cities in the US.

Tuesday, 11/15 from 4-5:30pm
Student Union Room 62, SUNY New Paltz
Edith Kuiper, assistant professor of economics and women, gender, and sexuality studies, will examine the book within the context of her academic disciplines.

Wednesday, 11/16 at 4:30pm
Woodland Pond: 100 Woodland Pond Circle
Tom Olsen, associate professor of English, will lead this discussion.

Wednesday, 11/16 from 5-7pm
Student Union Room 100N, SUNY New Paltz
Join STL librarians Madeline Veitch and Lydia Willougby along with intern Jen Campos in this fun workshop. Try do-it-yourself zine techniques, create self-published zines related to the book, and contribute to a compilation zine!

Thursday, 11/17 from 11am-12:30pm
Elting Memorial Library: 93 Main Street
Reverend Steve Ruelke, a street minister in Newburgh, will share his insights into poverty, accompanied by some of his congregants.

Thursday, 11/17 from 7-8:30pm
Elting Memorial Library: 93 Main Street
Casandra Beam, chief executive officer of the Ulster Literacy Association, Michael Berg, executive director of Family of Woodstock, and Amy Drayer, executive director of Ulster Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), will share their perspectives as key Hudson Valley human service providers.

Friday, 11/18 from 3-4:30pm
Sojourner Truth Library M39, SUNY New Paltz
Bruce Weisner, One Book/One New Paltz committee member, will guide this laid-back book discussion.

Friday, 11/18 from 6-7:30pm
Sojourner Truth Library STL18, SUNY New Paltz
Mark McFadden, director of the Career Resource Center at SUNY New Paltz, will help you discover the three components to a good resume and learn the three strategies for an effective job search.

Saturday, 11/19 from 7-9pm
Elting Memorial Library: 93 Main Street
View an episode of the popular TV show, Shameless, which explores social service issues and requirements. Afterword, participants are invited to  discuss the episode as it relates to the book.

Sunday, 11/20 from 1-2:30pm
Elting Memorial Library: 93 Main Street
Join members of the One Book/One New Paltz committee in a concluding discussion and review of 2016 One Book/One New Paltz events.






On Poverty: Open Mic Sign-up Page


Sojourer Truth Library, SUNY New Paltz
Gather in the library lobby to express your thoughts on the book and poverty in America through poetry, song, or any other creative outlet you choose. Sign up here by providing your name , a title, the method of expression you plan to use, and an approximate length of time. (Scroll down to “Leave a Reply.”) Are you a college student? A high school student? A community member? Let us know! All are welcome. We can’t wait to hear what you’ve got!

Resources and Supplemental Reading

Articles and Reports:

New York Times: “The Eviction Economy” by Matthew Desmond
     Also by Matthew Desmond: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Atlantic: “It is Expensive to be Poor” by Barbara Ehrenriech
    Also by Barbara Ehrenriech: Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America

Chronicle of Higher Education: “How Many College Students are Going Hungry?” by Steve Kolowich

Center for Research, Regional Education, and Outreach: “Food Insecurity in Ulster County”

Slate: “Why Poor People Stay Poor” by Linda Tirado


Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy

The Undeserving Poor: America’s Enduring Confrontation with Poverty by Michael B. Katz

Related Films:

American Winter (2013)

 A Place at the Table (2013)

 New York Times short video: “Wefare and the Politics of Poverty”
     See also related story, “Political Rifts over Bill Clinton’s Welfare Law Resurface as Aid Shrinks” 

Websites: 100 Stores that Give Discounts to Students” 100 Great Ways to Save Money

The Forum

Let’s start a conversation!

To start a thread, simply click “Leave a Reply” below. Please remember to be respectful. All posts will be sent to the forum moderator for approval. Enjoy!

Here are some discussion questions from to get you started:

Chapter 1: Welfare is Dead

  1. Is there a person you can relate to most in this chapter, either Modonna or any of the people included in the history of welfare policy? What is it about them that you can relate to?
  2. Why do so many Americans dislike programs labeled as welfare?
  3. If you were put in charge of creating a government system of aid for families like Modonna’s what would it look like?

Continue reading

The Authors

About Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer

After decades of research on poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen before—namely, that many of the people she was talking with had virtually no cash coming in. She then teamed up with H. Luke Shaefer, who confirmed a spike in the number of U.S. households living on less than $2 per person per day in the wake of the 1996 reform that abolished a federal guarantee of support to the poor and thereby ended “welfare as we knew it.” Edin and Shaefer then traveled from Cleveland, to Chicago, to the Mississippi Delta to spend time with 18 families, trying to better understand how the 1.5 million households living in this extreme poverty, including 3 million children, are able to get by at all.


Photo by the Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences

Kathryn J. Edin, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, is recognized as one of the leading poverty researchers in the U.S. Noted for her “home economics of welfare” (Mother Jones), Edin uses both quantitative research and in-depth observation to try to better understand the lives of people living in poverty in the U.S. Her other books include Promises I Can’t Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage and Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City.



Photo by the University of Michigan School of Social Work

H. Luke Shaefer, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and the Ford School of Public Policy as well as a research affiliate at the National Poverty Center, is an expert on Census surveys that track the incomes of the poor. His recent work explores rising levels of extreme poverty in the U.S., the impact of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program on material hardship, barriers to unemployment insurance, and strategies for increasing access to oral health care in the United States.


About $2.00 a Day

1118_2-dollars-a-dayA revelatory account of poverty in America so deep that we, as a country, don’t think it exists

Jessica Compton’s family of four would have no cash income unless she donated plasma twice a week at her local donation center in Tennessee. Modonna Harris and her teenage daughter Brianna in Chicago often have no food but spoiled milk on weekends.

After two decades of brilliant research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen since the mid-1990s — households surviving on virtually no income. Edin teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on calculating incomes of the poor, to discover that the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to 1.5 million American households, including about 3 million children.

Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? Edin has “turned sociology upside down” (Mother Jones) with her procurement of rich — and truthful — interviews. Through the book’s many compelling profiles, moving and startling answers emerge.

The authors illuminate a troubling trend: a low-wage labor market that increasingly fails to deliver a living wage, and a growing but hidden landscape of survival strategies among America’s extreme poor. More than a powerful exposé, $2.00 a Day delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality. —Goodreads

The 2016 Committee


Mick Adams (Professor Emeritus Mathematics, SUNY New Paltz)
Joanna Arkans (New Paltz High School Library)
Gerald Benjamin, Committee Founder (The Benjamin Center, SUNY New Paltz)
Sue Books (Secondary Education, SUNY New Paltz)
Mark Colvson (Sojourner Truth Library)
Darlene Davis
John Giralico (Elting Memorial Library)
Robin Jacobowitz (The Benjamin Center, SUNY New Paltz)
Charlene V. Martoni, Committee Chair & Webmaster (Sojourner Truth Library)
Colleen Minkewicz (SUNY New Paltz Student)
Siobhan O’Brien (SUNY New Paltz Student)
Victoria Schreiber (SUNY New Paltz Student)
Shelley Sherman
Myra Sorin
Bruce Weisner
Linda Welles (Elting Memorial Library Trustee)

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