Author(s)  
Matthew Desmond

Sociologists long have observed that the urban poor rely on kinship networks to survive economic destitution. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among evicted tenants in high-poverty neighborhoods, this article presents a new explanation for urban survival, one that emphasizes the importance of disposable ties formed between strangers. To meet their most pressing needs, evicted families often relied more on new acquaintances than on kin. Disposable ties facilitated the flow of various resources, but often bonds were brittle and fleeting. The strategy of forming, using, and burning disposable ties allowed families caught in desperate situations to make it from one day to the next, but it also bred instability and fostered misgivings among peers.

Publication Type  
Article
Journal  
American Journal of Sociology
Volume  
117
Issue Number  
5
Pages  
1295-1335
Keywords  
poverty
survival
kinship
network ties
eviction
ethnography