Professor of Sociology, Princeton University
Matthew Desmond is a professor of sociology at Princeton University. His primary teaching and research interests include urban sociology, poverty, race and ethnicity, organizations and work, social theory, and ethnography.
Desmond started studying housing, poverty, and eviction in 2008, living and working alongside poor tenants and their landlords in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Combining ethnographic fieldwork with original statistical analyses, Desmond discovered that eviction was incredibly prevalent in low-income communities and functioned as a cause, not just a condition, of poverty. This work was summarized in his book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, which won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. Desmond also launched the Eviction Lab at Princeton University in 2017, where he serves as principal investigator. In April 2018, the Eviction Lab published the first-ever dataset of millions of evictions in America, going back to 2000.
Desmond was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2015, and in 2018 he received the Stowe Prize for Writing to Advance Social Justice, awarded by the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center to authors whose work shines a light on critical social issues. In addition to Evicted, he is also the author of the award-winning book On the Fireline, the coauthor of two books on race, and the editor of a collection of studies on severe deprivation in America. He has written essays on educational inequality, dangerous work, political ideology, race and social theory, and the inner-city housing market. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune.
The majority of poor families in America who are renters spend over half of their income on housing costs, and eviction is upending their lives. Pulitzer Prize-winning sociologist Matthew Desmond’s work points to housing instability as a key cause, not just a symptom, of poverty in the U.S. Given this, all those who seek to address poverty and inequality must learn about and address this crisis. Desmond’s talk will be followed by discussion among a panel of experts will explore the question of what funders can most effectively do to work toward solutions to this problem.