The Public Interest

The roots of inequality

Isabel V. Sawhill

Summer 2002

DEBATES about the poor, it seems, will always be with us. The pendulum swings between the argument that poverty results from lack of opportunity and the view that it is the fault of the poor themselves. These disagreements are well illustrated in three recent books with three radically different interpretations of the same reality. I wish I could say that each of these books contains, in equal measure, a piece of the truth. But they vary not only in their diagnoses but also in the degree to which their evidence and arguments convince.

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