The Working Poor: Invisible in America


The book opens up by striking the difference between different service people. The book is about families that are shaped simply by the hardships they face in life. People, who are drugged addicts, depend on welfare, homeless, trapped in low wage jobs, people with malnourished children or sexually abused people. These are just but a few of the problems and hardship faced by families in the working America. The book elaborates on a few of these American families and their dreams, personal failings, and their country failings.

Ann Brash, a poorly paid book editor, had a son and a daughter. The son Sandy lived at home contributed in the family wage by working as a computer specialist. The daughter Sally dropped out of school after claiming that she was not succeeding. She opted to work in a flower shop for $13 an hour. Ann chooses poverty as an alternative to work multiple jobs. This in turn sacrificed the time she required to raise, her children well (Shipler, 2005). Her only wishes are that her son and daughter could get well educated to acquire better jobs with medical insurance.

.  Lisa Brooks had a son whose ambulance charges got her into credit problems. Marriage was her rescuer. The husband earned enough to enable her to stay home with the six children they brought home with the marriage. She however faced a few financial problems. Though the husbands company covered the family medically, prescriptions were not in the cover. Her son who had asthma required medicine from time to time.


Summary of the social issues presented

The book specializes on poverty and other social issues that come with poverty. It explains the lives of different people and the different steps they take in trying to make ends meet. It is about how America treats the working poor.

The author notices that hospitals are forced to treat a poor patient in an emergency but also allowed to bill them.  With an emergency treatment or ambulance ride, the bills are outrageous, and such bills easily turn a family into destitution. Shipler adds that it costs $900 to declare bankruptcy and obtain the law protection from creditors (Shipler, 2005). How is a poor bankrupt family supposed to raise $900 to pay for the cost of announcing bankruptcy? Again, the laws are never enforced. There are laws that govern the minimum allowed wages, human working, and living conditions, such laws are never enforced. The working poor are almost as slaves and are used and fired without any protection from unfair firing.

Analysis of the decision-making process and resolution planning

Lisa Brooks chooses marriage as her solution to credit problems. She has outlined her goal of getting marriage for support. She has enough data to support her decision since she already knows the financial capability of the husband. Her decision is based on data. After analyzing the situation, she made the decision and immediately took action.  Debra hall, who just filed her first returns, is anticipating for her credit refund. She is planning to pay all her bills. It is notable that she has already set her goals with support from acquired data. She knows how much she expects as refund and how to use it.

Most of the characters in this book have set their goals and are working on them. However, developing alternatives which is an important step in the decision making process is not common among these characters. With alternatives, the risk of failure is spread among the alternatives. However, most of the characters have no problem making a decision and taking action. Again, characters are making decisions after acquiring enough data to support their decision. They know what they have and what they want.

The characters depicted in this book have different access to resources. Some such as Leary Brock are earning better wages though still depending on mother’s pension to pay for taxes and mortgage. It is notable that most of these characters are not thinking of alternatives for the future. All they care about is the bills and credits that they owe today. They forget to develop alternatives when making the decision on resources utilization. Most of these characters have access to the earned income tax credit, but listening to what they plan to do with their refunds suggest that they care more about today forgetting tomorrow. They have set goals but these are goals are not well evaluated. If such refunds are invested in high return investments, the proceeds from such returns can be used to pay taxes, mortgages, buy a new house or even new furniture.

The characters engage well with each other. They understand the situation they all are in. however; some characters have in the past engaged badly with social institutions such as the IRS.  Evon Johnson had a bad experience with the IRS. She owed $2072 in penalties, taxes and interest. After paying part of the money and promising to pay the rest in installments, the IRS went ahead and took the money in her bank account. She fears the IRS ever since.

The major social issue depicted in the book is poverty. A point repeatedly made in relation to a variety of case studies is that for anyone to move out of poverty, the entire system must work perfectly. One has to add other things such as fundamental budgeting and arithmetic skills,  safe public housing, public transportation, effective parenting, adequate schooling and childcare,  effective job training, honest banks, credit card companies and tax preparation brokers, as well as observant employers. Ann Brash has given up her effective parenting for the sake of working multiple jobs. Though she is trying to solve her family poverty problem, she is a barrier to the ultimate solution. If she effectively brings up her kids, they will in the end solve the poverty problem by becoming well educated and responsible. Being well medicated will enable them to develop their own perfect system.

Again, the governmental system is also creating a barrier to the eradication of poverty. The immigrants do pay taxes thus never benefit from the refund program. Again, the laws on minimum wages though already in the constitution are never enforced. If the lawmakers do not enforce the law they make, who will? This creates a bigger gap between the rich and the poor.  Most of these issues are never fully resolved. The government makes laws but never enforce them. This is actually a great barrier to development.

Critical reflection

Ann Brash is a poorly paid book editor. She chooses to take multiple jobs due to poverty. She simply sacrifices the time to bring up her children well yet she wants the best for them. The son works as a computer specialist at daughter has recently dropped out of school to work in a flower shop. If given the opportunity, Ann would have chosen to spend more time with the children and bring them up well. This way she would have encouraged them to work hard in school and acquire better jobs in future. The future she wants for them would be more viable if she had the time to guide them. They have the chance to develop their perfect system but only after, they acquire better education.


The book is explaining about the poverty experienced by the working people in America. Though working, the individuals depicted in the book are still poor. They cannot even take good care of their families. Most depend on tax refunds for sustainance. Though most of them already have set goals, such goals are not well evaluated nor alternatives generated. Most care about clearing the bills forgetting tomorrow comes with other bills. The system, which is supposed to protect them never, does that. The lawmaker makes laws that are never enforced. It costs $ 900 to declare bankruptcy. The system is very imperfect in all its elements and poverty will only be eliminated if the whole system is perfect.



Shipler, D. K. (2005). The Working Poor: Invisible in America. New York, USA: Vintage

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