Bankruptcy and the austerity it represents have become a common "solution" for struggling American cities. What do the spending cuts and limited resources do to the lives of city residents? In Broke, Jodie Adams Kirshner follows seven Detroiters as they navigate life during and after their city's bankruptcy. Reggie loses his savings trying to make a habitable home for his family. Cindy fights drug use, prostitution, and dumping on her block. Lola commutes two hours a day to her suburban job. For them, financial issues are mired within the larger ramifications of poor urban policies, restorative negligence on the state and federal level and—even before the decision to declare Detroit bankrupt in 2013—the root causes of a city’s fiscal demise.
Like Matthew Desmond’s Evicted, Broke looks at what municipal distress means, not just on paper but in practical—and personal—terms. More than 40 percent of Detroit’s 700,000 residents fall below the poverty line. Post-bankruptcy, they struggle with a broken real estate market, school system, and job market—and their lives have not improved.
Detroit is emblematic. Kirshner makes a powerful argument that cities—the economic engine of America—are never quite given the aid that they need by either the state or federal government for their residents to survive, not to mention flourish. Success for all America’s citizens depends on equity of opportunity.
Jodie Adams Kirshner is a research professor at New York University. Previously on the law faculty at Cambridge University, she also teaches bankruptcy law at Columbia Law School. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute, past term member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and a technical advisor to the Bank for International Settlements. She received a prestigious multi-year grant from the Kresge Foundation to research this book. Until 2014, Kirshner was a law professor at Cambridge University, where she also served as the deputy director of the Cambridge LLM program, the deputy director of the Cambridge Centre for Corporate and Commercial Law, and as a fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge. Kirshner received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and graduate degrees in law and in journalism from Columbia University. She lives in New York City.
Beth Macy is the author of three New York Times-bestselling books. Her latest book, Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company That Addicted America, was short-listed for the Carnegie Medal, won the L.A. Times Book Prize for Science and Technology and was described as a “masterwork of narrative nonfiction” by The New York Times. Her first book, Factory Man, won a J. Anthony Lukas Prize, and her second book, Truevine, was a Kirkus Prize finalist. She is also the creator of the forthcoming Audible Original audio documentary, Dopesick: Finding Tess.