Living on Little, by Julie Zollmann, illuminates the many deep and overlooked ways that scarcity shapes the lives of ordinary Kenyans. Drawing on four years of systematic research with nearly 300 low-income families, this book offers readers a new and intimate perspective on poverty.
Living on very little money doesn’t just mean that you worry about how to feed your family and pay rent. It also means that you have a narrow set of choices about whom to marry and what kinds of marital discretions to forgive. It means making heartbreaking tradeoffs between paying for education or healthcare. Where there are weak government institutions and labor markets, it often means that the cost of playing by the rules is untenable, pushing people into illicit markets and making bribery practically inevitable.
Low-income people, just like everyone else, face challenges with addiction, mental illness, and infertility, but have few resources to find solutions. Living on Little tells a holistic story about how low-income Kenyans optimistically pursue life-long missions to build richer lives—literally and figuratively. Along the way, it provokes new insights, pokes at old assumptions, and inspires creative thinking about the problem of poverty.