Chair's Book Club

FOR MEMBERS Chair's Book Club

What We’re Reading:
Poverty, by America
by Dr. Matthew Desmond

Watch Dr. Matthew Desmond speak at the 2023 Annual Meeting!

If you attended the 2023 Annual Meeting, you already know how well Dr. Matthew Desmond understands poverty in America – its root causes, why efforts to address have made little progress, and the actions we can take now to truly abolish it.

All Philanthropy Southeast members are invited to explore Dr. Desmond’s argument in the months ahead as our Chair’s Book Club reads and discusses his bestselling book, Poverty, by America – a landmark book that draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor.


How to participate:

The Chair’s Book Club is open to all Philanthropy Southeast members! You choose how to engage – read the book, join a discussion group, or attend events. Take part in one activity or join us for all!


1) Read the book.

2) Join a discussion and share your thoughts.

We’ve started a private group on Goodreads so members can discuss the book with each other, ask questions, and share their thoughts on topics and themes from the work. New to Goodreads? Visit Goodreads online to get started and create an account. To join the discussion, go to our Chair’s Book Club page on Goodreads.

Zoom – offers a free Basic Plan with a 40-minute time limit on video conferences with three or more participants. The free plan includes most features and can accommodate up to 100 participants in a meeting.
Skype – the Meet Now option lets you start a chat or meeting without having to sign up for an account or download the app to your desktop. Users will need to download the Skype app to use the service on their phone. Allows for up to 50 people with no time limit.
FaceTime – if everyone in your group is on Apple devices, you can start a Group FaceTime from the FaceTime app or from a group conversation in the Messages app and add up to 32 people. See this link for more information and instructions.
Google Meet – formerly Hangouts Meet, this tool is available to all Google users. Hosts and participants must have a Google account.
Slack – provides a free option for small groups to create an online discussion forum with messaging. Video conferencing is available for 1:1 calls, but not groups. Best for ongoing or asynchronous discussions between group calls.

3) Attend upcoming programs.

As a Chair’s Book Club participant, you’ll have the opportunity to read Poverty, by America while sharing the experience with other Philanthropy Southeast members through events addressing the topics in the book, as well as online discussions.

Coming up: Building a Beloved Economy: Strategies for Wealth Building to Abolish Poverty - Tuesday, April 09 at 10:00am (ET) / 9:00am (CT)



About the Book:

The United States, the richest country on earth, has more poverty than any other advanced democracy. Why? Why does this land of plenty allow one in every eight of its children to go without basic necessities, permit scores of its citizens to live and die on the streets, and authorize its corporations to pay poverty wages?

In this landmark book, acclaimed sociologist Matthew Desmond draws on history, research, and original reporting to show how affluent Americans knowingly and unknowingly keep poor people poor. Those of us who are financially secure exploit the poor, driving down their wages while forcing them to overpay for housing and access to cash and credit. We prioritize the subsidization of our wealth over the alleviation of poverty, designing a welfare state that gives the most to those who need the least. And we stockpile opportunity in exclusive communities, creating zones of concentrated riches alongside those of concentrated despair. Some lives are made small so that others may grow.

Elegantly written and fiercely argued, this compassionate book gives us new ways of thinking about a morally urgent problem. It also helps us imagine solutions. Desmond builds a startlingly original and ambitious case for ending poverty. He calls on us all to become poverty abolitionists, engaged in a politics of collective belonging to usher in a new age of shared prosperity and, at last, true freedom.


More about the book:

  • Matthew Desmond Books: The author’s web site includes information and resources for both Poverty, By America and his earlier work, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.
  • Poverty, By America | Penguin Random HouseThe publisher’s site offers information on the book, links to purchase copies, background information on the author, and a discussion guide.

About the Authors:

Matthew Desmond is a professor of sociology at Princeton University. After receiving his Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, he joined the Harvard Society of Fellows as a Junior Fellow.

He is the author of four books, including Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), which won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, Carnegie Medal, and PEN / John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction. The principal investigator of The Eviction Lab, Desmond’s research focuses on poverty in America, city life, housing insecurity, public policy, racial inequality, and ethnography.

He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, and the William Julius Wilson Early Career Award. A contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, Desmond was listed in 2016 among the Politico 50, as one of “fifty people across the country who are most influencing the national political debate.”

Current Selection

 · Poverty, by America Discussion Guide & Additional Resources

Past Selections

 · How the Word is Passed: Discussion Guide & Additional Resources

 · Unicorns Unite: Discussion Guide & Additional Resources

 · Lost Children Archive: Discussion Questions
 · Lost Children Archive: Discussion Guide

 · The Sum of Us: Discussion Questions
 · The Sum of Us: Discussion Guide

 · The Hate U Give: Discussion Questions
 · The Hate U Give: Discussion Guide

 · The Color of Law: Discussion Questions
 · The Color of Law: Discussion Guide & Additional Resources

 · The Sun Does Shine: Discussion Questions
 · The Sun Does Shine: Discussion Guide & Additional Resources

View our webinars from Past Selections in our Archived Programs.

If you have questions about the Chair's Book Club, please contact Stephen Sherman, Director of Research & Data, at or (404) 524-0911.


Connecting with Philanthropy Southeast:
The Philanthropy Southeast staff works remotely – the best way to reach us is by email or by calling (404) 524-0911.

Monday-Thursday from 9:00am–6:00pm (ET)

On Fridays, staff work on a flexible schedule. Members can reach our team via email or by calling (404) 524-0911 between 9:00am and 6:00pm (ET). We will respond to all urgent and time-sensitive matters promptly.

Mailing address:
100 Peachtree Street NW, Suite 2080
Atlanta, GA 30303

Mission: Philanthropy Southeast strengthens Southern philanthropy, welcoming our members to listen, learn and collaborate on ideas and actions to help build an equitable, prosperous South.