rusq: Vol. 54 Issue 1: p. 67
Sources: The New Faces of American Poverty: A Reference Guide to the Great Recession
Jennifer A. Bartlett

Head of Reference Services, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky

John W. Gardner, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson, is said to have observed, “History never looks like history when you are living through it.”1 Certainly when the catastrophic economic downturn from 2007 to 2009 began, few observers could predict its lasting significance. The New Faces of American Poverty is one of the first books to examine the impact of the Great Recession on poverty in America from historical, cultural, social, governmental, and demographic perspectives.

This two-volume reference set is comprised of essays from more than twenty contributing writers addressing topics such as federal and state responses to the crisis; the demographics of poverty by age, gender, education, geographic area, and ethnic group; and underlying causes of poverty. Essays are organized in thematic sections, each section introduced by a guiding question. For example, section 4, “How Did the Great Recession Affect Low-Income Individuals and Families?” includes chapters on food insecurity and assistance, hiring practices, homelessness, and housing assistance programs. section 6, “How Long Will the Effects of the Great Recession Last?” examines topics such as double dip recession risk and structural economic changes. Each section begins with a brief overview summarizing the key points of the topic. Further, as the reader would expect in a comprehensive reference work, both the section introductions and the essays themselves feature useful lists of materials for further reading.

Of particular use to researchers are the extensive primary document appendices in volume 2. The first appendix provides a background understanding of the Great Recession itself viewed through the lens of presidential speeches, government agency reports, and key legislation such as the Economic Stimulus Act, the Emergency Stabilization Act, and the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The second appendix focuses on the Great Recession’s impact on poverty and includes a thorough array of relevant, well-documented statistics. Key statistical data charts and graphs are also scattered throughout the essays, providing an easy-to-use entry point for students.

As the events of the Great Recession continue to resonate worldwide, more articles and reference books will doubtless become available. The New Faces of American Poverty provides an excellent grounding for an overview of the topic and should be a heavily-used resource on high school, college, and university library shelves for years to come.

1. John W. Gardner,   No Easy Victories ,   (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), 169.

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