How Over a Million American Families Live on $2 Per Day

In early 2011, 1.5 million American households, including 3 million children, were living on less than $2 in cash per person per day. Half of those households didn’t have access to in-kind benefits like food stamps, either. Worst of all, the numbers had increased dramatically since 1996.

Those are the astonishing findings Johns Hopkins’ Kathryn Edin and the University of Michigan’s Luke Shaefer discovered after analyzing Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data in 2012. In the intervening years, Edin and Shaefer sought out Americans living in this situation, with basically no cash income, relying on food stamps, private charity, and plasma sales for survival.

The result is $2.00 a Day, a harrowing book that describes in devastating detail what life is like for the poorest of America’s poor.

How do families making $2 per person per day get by? How do they get housing and food? $2.00 a Day reveals the experiences and hidden truths of homelessness and resourcefulness that most of us don’t see.

A New J.R.R. Tolkien Novel, ‘The Tale Of Kullervo’, Is On The Way

You’d think that the Tolkien estate had enough money; between the movies, the books, and the merch, he’s been one of the most successful dead authors for quite a while. But, apparently, there’s a manuscript yet to be published, and gold yet to be mined from nerds.

The manuscript in question is The Story of Kullervo, which actually has been published in some academic journals, but is getting a standalone release later this month in the UK and next April in the U.S. It’s based on Finland’s national saga, The Kalevala, and follows an orphan getting revenge on the dark mage that killed his father. Peskily for his heirs, Tolkien never finished the book, which is probably what kept them from putting it out until now.

There is at least a little justification for putting this out; the book will be edited by and have commentary by Professor Verlyn Flieger, best known to nerds for her work on Tolkien, but who is also is an expert in medieval literature and comparative mythology. Still, let’s not pretend that the goal here isn’t ultimately to sell the rights to Hollywood and see if they can’t get another franchise going.

This isn’t the first manuscript from the vaults the estate has rolled out, but hopefully it’s the last. We really don’t need to see some poor academic trying to justify the necessity of The Compleat Treasury of the Dongs J.R.R. Tolkien Doodled in His Book Margins.

The Price of College Textbooks is 1000% Higher Than They Were 38 Years Ago

The price of college textbooks has ballooned in the past 40 years, according to NBC’s latest number-crunching. Textbooks are 1041 percent more expensive today than they were in January 1977.

That’s unreal, you might say. Actually, that’s the market. Economists say that textbook prices have continued to go up, at a rate that’s even higher than the rate of inflation, because students need them the same way that drug addicts need a fix—at whatever cost. “They’ve been able to keep raising prices because students are ‘captive consumers,'” said Nicole Allen from the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. “[Students] have to buy whatever book they’re assigned.”

Those on the publishing side may disagree—Marisa Bluestone from the Association of American Publishers argued that students can always rent textbooks or buy them secondhand. But either way, there’s no sign that the market will get any better for students: professors are not “price-sensitive” (they don’t have to buy those things), so they will continue to assign whatever materials they like. And students will keep having to pay the sticker price.

“I find the prices of college textbooks in general ridiculous,” said one Northeastern University student. “But you gotta do what you gotta do.” Spoken like a true freshman.