“We’re the Richest Democracy With the Worst Poverty,” says EVICTED Author Matthew Desmond

“Poverty is a relationship, it involves you and me and everybody else,” Desmond tells Stephen Henderson on Detroit Today.

Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson has spent this summer reading with listeners, discussing some of the most difficult issues around housing insecurity here in southeast Michigan.

The inaugural Detroit Today Summer Book Club has taken the team to Warren, Ferndale, Grosse Pointe, Ann Arbor and, of course, Detroit.

And at each point, they’ve had wonderful and engaging conversations with listeners about such a wide range of concerns.

They’ve heard from tenants who worry about their housing stability, from teachers who’ve seen their students’ lives affected by housing insecurity, from activists who are working hard to make change in this space, and from landlords who sit at the difficult moral crossroads where profit and survivability and the need for shelter all meet.

It has been quite a summer, and it will culminate Tuesday at the Detroit Public Library Main Branch with the book club’s final event, and tape a broadcast of Detroit Today.

But before that, the show goes back to the origins of this book club idea, and to the text that inspired it.

Matthew Desmond was a PhD. candidate when he began spending time with tenants and landlords in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, learning about their struggles and their lives. His dissertation about those people, and those issues, became the Pulitzer Prize-winning book. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is what led Henderson and his team to want to take their own look at housing insecurity here in southeast Michigan.

Desmond joined Detroit Today two years ago, when his book was published.

He joins the program once again to close out the summer of reading and discussion around his work.

“We’re the richest democracy with the worst poverty,” says Desmond. “Poverty is a relationship, it involves you and me and everybody else.”

He says there’s a crisis in America when it comes to housing insecurity and the cycle of poverty which must be addressed by public officials and candidates for office, especially as we head into this year’s elections.

“This should be at the top of our state and local and federal agendas,” he says.

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.