Shaefer speaks to United Way of Washtenaw County about local economic disparity

September 15, 2016

Luke Shaefer marked the start of the United Way of Washtenaw County’s annual fundraising campaign by highlighting the increasing and often invisible economic inequality in the local community. According to Lisa Barry from WEMU, who covered the event, Shaefer said “transportation problems, unemployment, and a local housing crisis are all to blame for the problems not always seen by many residents who live here.”

Shaefer is co-author (with Kathryn J. Edin) of the book $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, which explores the steep rise in the number of families across the U.S. living on $2.00 per person, per day. The book details the struggle of those living in extreme poverty through a variety of data, from an analysis of national welfare policy to ethnographic interviews with families.

At the kickoff event, Shaefer encouraged community leaders to not overlook the hardship some families in Washtenaw County face: “People really can go about their lives without at least seeing it … and the fact that even within the same communities, we often live parallel lives between those with means and those without.”

The United Way of Washtenaw County seeks to fight poverty and strengthen the local community through grants, advocacy, and free programming. 

H. Luke Shaefer is an associate professor of social work and public policy. His research focuses on the effectiveness of the United States social safety net in serving low-wage workers and economically disadvantaged families.