Matthew Desmond wins Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction

April 2017

Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond has won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for his book "Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City." The School of Social Ecology's Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation awarded Desmond its 2017 Human Security Award.

In the book, Desmond tells the story of eight Milwaukee families living on the edge who are spending almost all they have on rent, and are falling behind. In years past, evictions used to be rare. Today, most poor renting families spend more than half their income on housing and are frequently evicted. They're forced into shelters, increasingly squalid apartments and more dangerous neighborhoods.

Each person's story in the book sheds a bright light on how inequality is wracking America's cities: Arleen, a single mother, has $20 left over each month after paying the rent to raise her two sons. Vanessa, after her work hours are cut, attempts and botches a stickup. Lamar, who has no legs, is trying to work his way out of debt while caring for a neighborhood of boys. The stories are based on years of embedded field work.

Desmond won a MacArthur "Genius" grant in 2015.

Photo credit to John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.