What I’m reading on the topic of social problems

Currently, as I’m teaching The Economics of Social Problems, I find myself reading (and re-reading) a few books on the topic. Two of these are novels (i.e., not really appropriate sources for term papers in Econ 349); one is a memoir.

I just finished reading Warren Miller’s The Cool World (1959), a novel about gangs in New York. The book was made into a movie that you can watch here. (Soundtrack by Dizzy Gillespie.)

I’m also reading Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman. It’s an interesting look at life inside a federal prison and is striking in documenting how many people are in prison for the (what seem to me like) minor drug offenses.¬† As we’ll discuss in class, there are various means by which one can engage in deterrence and this book makes the case for re-thinking the war on drugs and the use of mandatory minimum sentences.

Finally, I’m re-reading Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. This is a great book by a great writer, painting a haunting picture of race relations, poverty, and social exclusion in the United States. It’s listed as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century.

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