Working Poor

Working Poor by David K. Shipler is a terrific book. One of those books that helps you see the world through somebody else’s eyes. I remember standing behind a woman in Walmart once who didn’t have enough money to pay, and instead of taking out the DVD or the tennis shoes, she took out the food. The good food, not the junk food. Shipler’s book helped me to understand how someone could make that choice in that situation. He explains that the poor are in a cycle of poverty because they don’t have the skills or resources to teach their children better. I won’t try to explain it all to you – read the book! But I thought a couple of his concluding points were worth calling out.

– David Shipler advocates not for raising the minimum wage, but for creating a path to better jobs. People that start out at minimum wage should have a clear training or experience path to a job with better wages. There will always be people around to fill the entry jobs, however, to end the cycle of poverty, we have to allow those that are working hard and well to progress.

– Job education is key. Many children from poor families don’t learn the basics of job interviewing, showing up on time, customer service, etc. As hard as it is for some of us to accept that, we could do the best good by teaching them the basics. Shipler had quite a few positive examples in this space.

Through real people Shipler shows us what the life of the working poor is like in America. Check out a copy from your local library or click on the link to the right and buy it. Read it.