Matthew Desmond

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Themes and Colors
Poverty, Exploitation, and Profit Theme Icon
Inequality, Injustice, and Discrimination Theme Icon
Housing as a Human Right Theme Icon
Community and Interconnection Theme Icon
Hopelessness and Lack of Choice Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Evicted, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Poverty, Exploitation, and Profit

Evicted addresses one of the darkest aspects of capitalism: the fact that it is possible for wealthy people to make enormous profits by exploiting those who live in what Matthew Desmond calls “grinding poverty.” This might seem surprising at first. Given that impoverished people have very little money themselves, how is it possible that wealthier people are able to generate significant profits through them? Where does this money come from? In Evicted, Desmond emphasizes…

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Inequality, Injustice, and Discrimination

In Evicted, Desmond illustrates the role inequality and discrimination play in housing injustice in America. He shows that some discrimination that is technically illegal (such as racial discrimination and discrimination against families with children) is still rampant within the housing market, and also gives examples of discrimination that is not classified as illegal. This latter form of discrimination mostly takes the form of discriminating against poor people simply for being poor. Ultimately, Desmond shows…

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Housing as a Human Right

In Evicted, Matthew Desmond challenges the widely held belief that housing is not a human right, but rather something that people must earn through work. He shows how this perspective is related to the principle of property ownership, whereby wealthier members of society are made more wealthy by owning property, while those who are too poor to earn property remain in a cycle of poverty and instability due to rising rents and the constant…

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Community and Interconnection

Evicted is a work of sociology with a narrative form: it tells the interconnected stories of a network of impoverished people in Milwaukee affected by eviction. Desmond’s choice to focus on this network—rather than on the stories of particular individuals—allows him to show how eviction is a systemic, rather than an individual problem. In this way, he challenges the idea that eviction is the fault of people who have failed to work, make enough money…

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Hopelessness and Lack of Choice

One of the major themes in sociological research on poverty is the way in which impoverished people have so few choices and opportunities that they become desperate, hopeless, and cynical. This leads to problems like violence and substance abuse, and prevents people from making decisions that could potentially help them get out of poverty. Desmond emphasizes that those who face housing insecurity are in such dire circumstances that it is nearly impossible for them to…

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