Skip to main content

What we’re reading: Poorly Understood: What America Gets Wrong About Poverty

  • Share

November 17, 2021

What we’re reading: "Poorly Understood: What America Gets Wrong About Poverty"


SEATTLE, Washington–Last month, the National CASA/GAL Association for Children hosted Mark Robert Rank, co-author of “Poorly Understood: What America Gets Wrong about Poverty” to participate in a live discussion with hundreds of CASA/GAL state organization and local program staff from across the country to kick off the National CASA/GAL Book Club Poverty Series. Co-authored by Rank, Lawrence M. Eppard, and Heather E. Bullock, the book covers myths, stereotypes, and misperceptions surrounding the issue of poverty, as well as the realities of poverty. The book also provides insight on society’s view of economic prosperity.

Rank is the Herbert S. Hadley Professor of Social Welfare at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and is recognized as an expert on issues of poverty, inequality and social justice. “We’re all affected by these large beliefs and myths that are out there. They’re very prevalent. Certainly, I think when I started out, I thought ‘Poverty is probably largely due to people not working hard enough, not exerting themselves hard enough,’” said Rank during the book club discussion moderated by National CASA/GAL program design and innovation officer Kimberly Koch. “As I started to talk with people, folks in poverty, folks using a social safety net program, I began to realize that these myths were myths – not the reality. That’s why it’s so important to be able to walk in the shoes of somebody else and be able to understand where they’re coming from. Try walking in the steps of someone in poverty and then see what you think,” said Rank.

The National CASA/GAL Book Club’s current series is focused on poverty and allows CASA/GAL staff and volunteers to reflect and engage in facilitated dialogue on topics that impact the children and families they serve. Leading up to the event, book club members participated in independent reading and group discussion, culminating in this special opportunity to hear directly from the author.

The next reading in the Book Club poverty series is “The Lines Between Us: Two Families and a Quest to Cross Baltimore’s Racial Divide” by author Lawrence Lanahan.