Read Tom's Author Essay featured by Powell's Books
“Shapiro makes it clear that many people suffer due to circumstances well beyond their control—they do everything right and still end up on the wrong side of the ledger—and that the country could afford to address this by refocusing its priorities. A strong case that deserves a wider readership than just policy wonks.”—Kirkus Review
How America's Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide & Threatens our Future
Since the Great Recession, most Americans' standard of living has stagnated or declined. Economic inequality is at historic highs. But inequality's impact differs by race. African Americans' net wealth is just a tenth that of white Americans. In recent decades, the wealth divide between white and African-American families has tripled. In our increasingly diverse nation, sociologist and acclaimed author Thomas M. Shapiro argues, wealth disparities must be understood in tandem with racial inequities—a dangerous combination he terms “toxic inequality.”
In Toxic Inequality, Shapiro reveals how these forces combine to trap families in place. Following nearly 200 families of different races and income levels over a period of 12 years, Shapiro's research vividly documents inequality’s toll on parents and children, the ways families use assets to manage crises and create opportunities, and the real reasons some families advance while others struggle in poverty. The structure of our neighborhoods, workplaces, and tax code — much more than individual choices — push some forward and hold others back. A lack of assets, far more common in families of color, often undermines parents' hard work and ruins careful plans for themselves and their children.
Toxic inequality is not inevitable. America's growing wealth gap and its deepening racial divide have been forged by history and preserved by policy, and only bold, race-conscious reforms can move us toward a more just society.