Worlds Apart

Poverty and Politics in Rural America

When it was first published in 1999, Worlds Apart gave readers a glimpse of the nature of poverty through the stories of real people in three remote rural areas of the United States: New England, Appalachia, and the Mississippi Delta. In this new edition, Duncan returns to her original research, interviewing some of the same people as well as some new key informants. Duncan provides powerful new insights into the dynamics of poverty, politics, and community change.

328 pages. ©2015.
Categories:
Available Formats:

Reader Reviews for this Book

[email protected]

Review posted November 8, 2017

5

As we seek to better understand the different elements within the culture of poverty, this read will bring you insight and information that will broaden your understanding and awareness of many american households.

cookie529

Review posted October 23, 2017

4

Such important information to get out there regarding poverty in the united states. This book provided great insight into the lives of poor, middle class and upper class in rural areas. It gave personal stories from real people who experience poverty or who are advantaged. It shows how views about the poor are shaped through historical context that has persisted in rural communities. I recommend.

[email protected]

Review posted August 3, 2017

4

Informative and eye-opening!

lmathis

Review posted May 19, 2017

4

I loved this book. I read it in 2 days. I am volunteering at a homeless shelter and being able to see the real world applications that the author writes about it fantastic. I definately recommend. Especially for HDFS students or anyone working with a diverse population.

ripcity2016

Review posted May 15, 2017

4

The beginning is a tad hard to get into too, but trust me it gets better! Will recommend!

angelalamborn

Review posted May 11, 2017

5

Cynthia Duncan did a great job of a balanced exploration between the experiences of the successful or wealthy in rural America and the second class or poor in the same community. The balance of personal stories and the overview was well done. I recommend this book as worth the read. I appreciate how clearly it lays out the experiences and effects of birth, family and power and how difficult it is to outlive that. It also shows that across the communities there are differences but similarities and the end result of class split is the same or similar.

jpaul

Review posted April 29, 2017

5

Heart wrenching and real.

amykeir

Review posted April 18, 2017

4

The book was well-structured, giving in-depth accounts and personal profiles from each of the three rural communities. I enjoyed the updates and comparisons between the first edition from the 90s, and this second edition from 2014. The book gives you a strong sense of each community and outlines the factors and history that have led to personal success and failure for different citizens. Duncan's argument for change at the end of the book is a compelling one: To uplift poor populations, federal support and intervention in early childhood development and public education must be coupled with local leadership and commitment.

RhiannonO

Review posted April 13, 2017

4

I picked this book because I wanted to understand why so many working class and low income people tend to vote for candidates who oppose social safety net programs and bust unions. I didn't think that racism or ignorance alone could explain this phenomenon. I'm not sure I'm 100% convinced that those two things don't play a huge role in voting activity, but after reading this book I can say with confidence that it isn't that simple. Many of the people in the first two communities profiled seemed to be caught between what benefits them on a macro level and what benefits them on a micro, or local, level. A lot of these communities are like feudal states - with big frogs in small ponds who control access to services, jobs, and opportunities. It made me sad to think of generations of people living in abject poverty and knowing that if they vote a certain way, they're going to be in trouble with "the people who run things." I thought it was heartening to see that Dahlia was able to change, although the amount of time it took was appalling. I was intrigued to learn that it changed in part due to community members migrating to other places with opportunities, then returning to benefit their communities. As someone who left a place with limited opportunity, I have a hard time relating to people who insist on staying put to their own detriment. I know that sometimes people don't have a choice - but sometimes you do. It's inspiring to see that someone who doesn't want to leave forever can leave in the short term, be successful, and bring their new skills and confidence back to be a change agent.

Ripleyb958

Review posted February 14, 2017

4

Awesome. This was a great book. This book made me think very deeply about the lives of poor, middle class and upper class in rural areas. It gave personal stories from real people who experience poverty or who are advantaged. It shows how views about the poor are shaped through historical context that has persisted in rural communities. Beautifully written, flows effortlessly and the people come alive.

SueDelventhal

Review posted January 23, 2017

4

Prof. Cynthia Duncan has published an excellent book for those that want to understand the impacts of poverty on politics in rural communities. As a sociologist, her methods of research for the book were based on hundreds of interviews with people in three locations: 1) an Appalachian area with an entrenched elite that prevents any type of reform; 2) a region in the Mississippi Delta which is divided by racism; and 3) a mill town in Maine that works to find solution for all. The author choose to relay her findings by sharing the story of a few individuals out of many that she interviews. Using the conversations, moral thinking, and political views of these real life people intertwined with the foundational academic research makes this book easy to read, fascinating, and compelling. In her newest edition of the book, Duncan returns to these three communities after her initial visit 20 years ago, talking with some of the same individuals first interviewed for the book. The follow-up visits are both interesting and surprising. The most fascinating thread that runs through the communities in both Appalachia and Mississippi is complete control over jobs, education, and politics that a few "elite" families have. Their power in these communities determines which families are labeled "good" and "bad". The division and distrust within the community is fierce. As a result of this labeling, pathways to success are either reachable or unattainable. In Mississippi the situation is complicated even more by race, leading to many poverty stricken families need to move to cities in the north just to survive. In both localities the idea of assisting those families that were struggling would only turn the political control of the elite upside down, so the system is stalled. In the Maine mill town, the community was highly functional even with a number of "elite" families owning lumber and paper mills. This community worked to try to provide jobs, opportunities, and education for all families. The community has worked hard to provide social supports and opportunities for all; as well as having an opening for individuals within the community to have a voice in setting public policy. So how do these communities change after 20 years? Each has changed in various ways and some in very surprising ways. Duncan's conclusion about solutions is broken down into how conservative and liberals believe rural America's poor should be assisted. However, she has a different approach that is practical, ethical, and lasting. That is to make investments in education and other institutions with a focus on creating tools available to the impoverished, so that they can take advantage of opportunities which are made available to them. Overall I would recommend this book. It is an excellent introduction to understanding the dynamics of poverty and politics in rural America. After reading, Prof. Cynthia Duncan's book I have a clear understanding of how individuals become trapped in poverty and the need to find solutions to allow these individual rise above poverty and become part of equitable communities where all people receive quality education, employment, a political voice, and other important opportunities.

ConnieCat

Review posted December 19, 2016

5

Duncan's use of personal story, statistics and research provides a clear picture of the relationships between poverty and policy in three counties in the Midwest and East of the United States. Each county is evaluated and detailed for their own unique social issues and policies, and then brought together at the end of the book to come up with suggestions for future policies and change that will benefit those who are living in poverty. This book is great for helping professionals, teachers and policy makers who wish to better understand the struggles and experiences of those they are serving that live in poverty. It also encourages personal research and reflection on how this country's systems and policies can be oppressive to the vulnerable. As this is the second edition of "Worlds Apart," it has been nicely updated since it's first publishing in 1999 ad balances older information with new.

amanda.knopf

Review posted October 21, 2016

5

As a previous AmeriCorps VISTA in a low-income urban area, this book has been helpful for me as I transition into my new position as a College Access Corps member in a more rural area of the country. I also grew up in a fairly urban and upper-middle class location, so I had no familiarity with the types of backgrounds and experiences many of the kids I work with now--children of migrant farmworkers, for example. Worlds Apart not only provides information and perspectives that help me in my work, but it does so in a relatable and engaging way. It has opened my eyes to specific ways to help my community, and it has also inspired me to continue my commitment to empowering people to tell their stories and share the power of storytelling in my community.

JulieLusby

Review posted October 6, 2016

4

Very good

bdonnell

Review posted October 6, 2016

4

A compelling investigation into the persistent issue of poverty in rural America. This book was an easy read but, not light. Great eye opener for anyone who is interested in analyzing how structures, circles, and norms that are so prevalent in our society impact wealth and health of a community.

Sebastian

Review posted August 23, 2016

3

An interesting read, though the causes and consequences of poverty--rural or urban--are much more complex than what this book attempts to convey. However, it succeeds exposing the shameful reality of insidious poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth.

bhua

Review posted June 7, 2016

3

Well- researched and written, but in need of updating. The author can be repetitive at times. It will definitely open your eyes if the are not already.

Christi A Clark

Review posted May 8, 2016

4

This is book presents a solid bank of research on the topic of Generational Poverty in 3 regions. The results were disheartening. I hope our country can move on more of a solution.

Suz Ybarra

Review posted April 23, 2016

5

Someone has said, "Want peace? Work for justice." After reading this book, I add: Want justice? Then (1) develop horizontal relationships and communication lines; (2) provide equality early childhood development opportunities; and (3) provide quality education for all. Some things can be done on grass roots level. Others may take federal funds and mandates. Grass roots, developing horizontal relationships can be accomplished through community activities such as mentoring programs, the establishment of community activities such as sports, choirs, potluck picnics and neighborhood watch programs. This book makes the point: if we only focus on ourselves, we are all impoverished. When we reach out to others, we are all elevated. Great book!

teacher77

Review posted March 26, 2016

3

this book reveals the difference in education.

tscott

Review posted March 21, 2016

3

Very sad what our children have to endure

ashleyjohnsonrx

Review posted February 15, 2016

4

Duncan provides an in-depth look at poverty in three rural communities and how local economy, politics, as well as community involvement play a role in keeping the "haves" and the "have nots" worlds apart. The book was informative but lengthy and cumbersome to read ( the book discussed many individuals in each of the respective towns). I found the last chapter to be the best in concisely driving home the main points related to strategies to improve education and opportunities for children to have the potential for upward mobility.

HelenR

Review posted February 3, 2016

5

I loved this book. The author used a lot of stories to prove her points and that made it easy for me to draw in my 12 yr old son and effortlessly teach him about children and poverty nationwide. Her powerful interviews took the words and turned them into real life tangible personal experiences. And we were constantly amazed at how much politics plays in poverty. A great book. Well written. Highly recommended.

brandisiebertz

Review posted January 28, 2016

2

The book provided significant detail of the sources of poverty in the regions highlighted as well as residents' accounts of their experience with poverty. While informative, the content was repetitive at times and I wonder if the book could have been condensed. It read like a research project or thesis that was made into a book but without any additional content. I found the follow up years later an interesting approach. I wondered where exactly these communities are and whether the locations were vague on purpose in order to afford those individuals interviewed some privacy. Overall, it was a quick read with some interesting material about poverty in three rural American communities.

toriedmos

Review posted January 22, 2016

4

Excellent read and very informational. My personal views were shifted and the author certainly gave me lots to think about. I recommend this for anyone who works or lives in a community with a higher poverty rate.

realestate

Review posted December 28, 2015

5

Great read.opened my eyes to the plight of rural America

gracehouse

Review posted December 9, 2015

2

Very difficult book to follow. It does represent truths in many respects, yet a difficult read.

eburton

Review posted November 3, 2015

5

Well written and readable, Duncan presents compelling images and information about rural poverty. I found myself creating scenarios aligning with hers but peopled with the rural poor of Eastern Oregon, and considering the local political contexts impacting our communities. Thought-provoking and challenging.

roxannajolly

Review posted November 2, 2015

4

This book was somewhat dry for my tastes, however, it is impressive that the author was able to revisit three communities and conduct interviews with some of the folks she spoke with two decades ago. The cover is gripping as it puts a face on a problem that some argue is the result of systemic issues, whereas others state that it is the result of poor decisions or even lack of effort. Unlike urban poverty, rural poverty is about social isolation, which contributes to chronic poverty and exacerbates issues such as mental health and substance abuse. With limited education, upward mobility is also limited. The coal mines were an integral part of the industrial revolution, which meant jobs. Those jobs are long gone and generally replaced by jobs in prison or jobs that attempt to attract tourists to increase the revenue in their community. In addition to the political struggles these communities experience, there is also a struggle to provide and to access much-needed services. Although this book provides perspective from individuals living in areas such as Appalachia and the Mississippi Delta, there are lessons that could be applied in rural communities in Oregon.

jorjiepacific

Review posted October 21, 2015

4

In this highly readable study, Duncan explores the cycle of poverty and inequality in three rural communities, relying on in-depth investigation and interviews to provide the reader insight into the dynamics of poverty, politics, and culture. She concludes that differences in civic culture explains why some rural families are able to break the cycle of poverty--and why some remain economically depressed generation after generation. In communities where segregation of class or race persist, inequality erodes the social fabric. Communities that maintain a rich civic culture with inclusive institutions support social change. Recommendations to ending rural poverty include strong investment in public works and federal oversight of education.

JANET HERRING-SHERMAN

Review posted October 9, 2015

4

Deeply informative and eye-opening.

abrowne1

Review posted September 29, 2015

4

This book was somewhat depressing and bleak. However, it gave powerful insight to the issues of poverty in rural America. I wish there had been a little more focus on poverty in rural America as it relates to immigrants...more research for someone.

Lwhite8

Review posted September 14, 2015

4

While the book was not as intriguing a character study as I had hoped, it was still informative and enjoyable.

Saramiller

Review posted September 1, 2015

2

I read the entire book, even though I found the information to be dated and familiar. Overall, it was a somewhat depressing reminder that in the absence of public policy and investment, economic class and personal connections/family history/assets increasingly limit the opportunities and outcomes for many individuals, their families and communities in the US. It was interesting (and also sad) to recognize that the same limitations of opportunities (jobs, scholarships, education, extracurricular activities, housing rentals, etc) happen in my own rural county based on the types of 'relationship brokering' and having the 'wrong last name' that are described in the book. It was also kind of sad to see that the communities that showed 'progress' between the first and second editions, had to rely on the gambling industry and prisons for economic development. As the author herself said in an interview: "it's powerful political and economic people and institutions that do the depriving". The author recommends providing "mental health and substance abuse help and family-supporting wages" to break the cycles poverty and ever-increasing disparity of wealth. However as she points out, it is exactly this type of political power that suffering communities and families lack. I find this discouraging.

Jackie LaBonte

Review posted August 21, 2015

5

This book really brought together the reader how the haves and the haves not are somewhat co-dependent. The author profiles many folks who are living in specific areas of poverty . This book offers insights into how there is the possibility of community change. It's a hard look into inequality.

aremington

Review posted August 2, 2015

3

I appreciate that the author completed a review and look back 10 years following the book and modified her position on what was and was not effective. It was a thoughtful look at the impact of politics and relationships on community resilience

wcbcpastor

Review posted July 13, 2015

4

Worlds Apart: Poverty and Politics in Rural America, Second Edition Cynthia M. Duncan New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999,2014 304pp. After conducting interviews in three disparate communities in America two different times – 1999 and again in 2012-2013 Duncan simply says, “We can do better.” Her interviews of people in these communities struggling with poverty are enlightening and revealing. People living in poverty express longings and desires for change but seem frustrated by inefficient and broken systems. People who are not in poverty express frustrations at trying to change systems that are needlessly oppressive and regressive. What emerges from Duncan’s studies, conducted fifteen years apart, are several important observations. First, fighting poverty can only occur locally. The federal government has a role to play but the changes necessary must be community based and community driven. There are no one size fits all strategies. The three communities highlighted in her interviews and observations are radically different in culture but united by the same types of desires and dreams. Second, the differences between Blackwell, Dahlia and Gray Mountain illustrate how far social capital and a culture of trust can create structurally different environments. Gray Mountain presented a different kind of community than its nearest neighbor in the study, Blackwell. The difference was not in the dreams and desires of poor and those not so poor but in the history of groups willing to work together to create a genuine sense of community. Third, a critical issue in creating a more even starting place for our children – whether in poverty or not – is early intervention. Oregon is taking huge steps to coordinating early learning initiatives to created a more even starting place. Results will take years to evaluate, but a start is being made. The book offers a fascinating overhearing of a variety of people with widely divergent backgrounds illuminating the struggles and challenges of making a living and creating a culture of livability. Rural Oregon communities like mine, Winston, would do well to carefully read and re-read the interviews and the conclusions as people seek to do better!

Tshelton

Review posted June 19, 2015

5

I thought this was a great book, a good read for the population I work with.

sam.engel

Review posted June 4, 2015

4

The revised edition certainly lives up to the reputation of the original. I was concerned that the book would be dated after 20 years, but it seems just as poignantly revealing of the income and class disparities in this county as it ever was. Perhaps more so.

taharris70

Review posted May 27, 2015

5

The book, Worlds Apart: Poverty and Politics in Rural America, is an insightful book. I am a family advocate in a rural school that has a high free and reduced lunch population. I found the case studies presented in this book relevant to my line of work and concisely presented. I would recommend this book to any educator who is working to gain insight into the lives of their students who live in poverty.

Kirsten777

Review posted May 25, 2015

4

A chilling glimpse at how politics keep to the status quo while chasing away those who would seek to create a better environment. Although the title suggests this is a rural accounting it leaves the reader to imagine that it is the same everywhere.

dcoonse

Review posted May 21, 2015

4

A powerful book on inequality and poverty especially in rural communities. Eye opening.

Mr. Bizjak

Review posted May 19, 2015

4

This book was helpful for the current doctoral class I am currently taking. What I especially enjoyed about the book was that it provided great insight into the plight of the other side of America. The stories were applicable to my classroom. My seniors are focusing on how to make the world a more accepting, loving place for all people. The excerpts that I lifted from this book cottoned well with class discussions. They even motivated students to think outside the metaphorical box. The dialogues that we shared with "Worlds Apart" at the crux definitely undergirded our understanding of the haves and have-nots in our classroom, families, community, and world. I would recommend this book to people interested in learning more about and wanting to understand the poverty of politics.

dpalter

Review posted May 19, 2015

3

I appreciate that both sides are shown; the haves and the have nots as are the positives and the negatives to be found on both sides. As a read, it can be a long text to wade thru.

kristoffer.molloy

Review posted April 30, 2015

4

As an educator in a high-poverty area, this book is an eye-opening read. I love the interplay between education and politics. This book left me energized for change.

jujugo

Review posted April 22, 2015

5

I thought I knew a lot about poverty in America. I was dead wrong. This book is quite an eye opener. When the poor are considered to be bad people and carry that label around with them all the time, when the line between the haves and have nots is so obvious, and when that's getting more and more so with more and more people, we'll continue to have this division. I wish the ideas in the book would work, but until the politics of this country change, they won't. Until the wealthy of this country stop buying elections and until we go back to being a country of the people and by the people, we'll never change this. And shame on us if we don't. Thank you for making this book available. It should be mandatory reading for every citizen in this country. maybe things would change then.

Susan S. Dubnow

Review posted April 14, 2015

4

By contrasting the life situations of the extremely poor to those of the middle class, the author has emphasized the need for poverty areas to be free from the financial oversight of the big boss in order to let people earn a stable income and become middle class.