Essay on how the other half lives

The boundary line between one half of the population and the other, in New York, depends on who lives in the tenements. Riis calls the tenement system one of public neglect and private greed, a system that creates evil, spreads epidemics, and leads to pauperism and crime. Riis gives some historical background that will better allow us to understand the contemporary tenements, as well as the relationship between housing and immigration both foreign and internal, from the countryside to the city.


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Here he makes an early claim for the relationship between housing and poverty. Riis argues that while some have said that these problems are due to the drunkenness of the poor, for instance, he wants to emphasize other data: that certain social conditions lead to immoral behaviors, and that the destitution of the poor often continues to the benefit of tenement owners. He agrees with a Brooklyn builder who has asked how Christian feeling can possibly be encouraged in those who have witnessed only greed.

Riis never denies that certain behaviors considered immoral or depraved by his Progressive-Era peers are more common among the poor.

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But he wants to dig deeper than surface-level observations, uncovering the causes that have led to such behaviors—meaning that the blame ultimately lies in the greed of the most powerful, who set a standard for the behavior of the poor. Poverty and Morality. Cite This Page. MLA Chicago. Baena, Victoria. Retrieved October 17, Copy to Clipboard.

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Important Quote and Explanation from. Download this Chart PDF.

"How the other half lives" , S2E3 Eamonn and Ruth

They're like having in-class notes for every discussion! Anonymous homeless man "I'm not interested in talking to you unless there's money involved.

See a Problem?

Time is money, you know. If you want to learn about being homeless, you should get yourself a sleeping bag and go down and sleep in the doorways a few nights.

Then you'll know what it's like being homeless. A lot of people think it doesn't affect us when they look at us as though we're not human.

How the Other Half Lives

Some are, but there's a lot of people out here that aren't. They have jobs, they just can't afford a place to live. They do the same things that people who have apartments and houses do. In the s many people in upper- and middle-class society were unaware of the dangerous conditions in the slums among poor immigrants.

After the Civil War , the country transformed into an industrial superpower and became largely urban.

This migration was vastly different from the previous booms due to the influx of non-western European and non-Protestant individuals, therefore making the split between the "new" and "old" immigrants much larger. In the years after the Civil War, many of the former residents of the most notorious slums were wealthy enough to move out of these conditions, or had died in the war.

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How the Other Half Lives by Jacob A. Riis

The slums were viewed as a problem by people before the publication of How the Other Half Lives. Some political reformers believed that a wider distribution of wealth would fix the problem, while the Socialists believed that public ownership and a redistribution of wealth would fix the problem. By , a total of 15, tenements existed in New York City, and the city's population was approaching 1,, Any house, building, or portion thereof, which is rented, leased, let or hired out to be occupied or is occupied, as the home or residence of more than three families living independently of one another and doing their own cooking upon the premises, or by more than two families upon a floor, so living and cooking and having a common right in the halls, stairways, yards, water-closets, or privies, or some of them.

It was with the publication of this act that the basic " dumbbell " layout of the tenement was first used. This tenement style was supposed to allow more natural light and air ventilation into these living quarters, as well as adding more water closets and allowing for the fire safety regulations explained in the Tenement House Act of On top of this, many of the landlords of these tenements did little to improve their conditions.

Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives Essay

When asked about the enforcement of the new statutes, the Superintendent of Buildings said that he was satisfied with hard wood in these tenements because it "burned slowly. During this time, Riis became a devout Christian and devoted himself to "the service of God and his fellows. Riis turned to photography as a sort of "pastime" and found it a useful tool when writing his police reports. Once he began using magnesium flash powder , he was able to capture the dark and dingy conditions of the tenements.

How the Other Half Lives was only one book in Riis' bibliography of highlighting the conditions in the slums of New York.

In January , Riis bought a detective camera and went on an expedition to gather images of what life was like in the slums of New York City. In February , Riis wrote a magazine article based on his lectures in Scribner magazine , which was a resounding success.