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: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises (St. Martin’s Press, New York Times Editor’s Choice, Michigan Notable Book Award, Tillie Olsen Award, J. Anthony Lukas Prize shortlist, Kirkus starred review), 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. Even before the bankruptcy in 2013, they struggled with the larger ramifications of poor urban policies and negligence on the state and federal level—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. Broke 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.

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/ Oct 01,2020

The Michigan Historical Review Reviews

Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises

/ Jun 22,2016

Jodie Adams Kirshner Joins NYU Marron Institute

with Funding Support from the Kresge Foundation

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Project Lead: Jodie Adams Kirshner

Jodie Adams Kirshner
Research Professor / Director's Office Labs

Jodie Adams Kirshner is a Research Professor at the NYU Marron Institute. Her current work, supported by the ECMC, Kresge, and Lumina Foundations, entails understanding obstacles and solutions for children of low-income and racial and ethnic-minority families in accessing and completing postsecondary education, bringing together issues of debt, inequality, and urban economies. 

Kirshner has published editorial and feature columns related to her research in such publications as The New York Times, Boston Globe, and Washington Monthly, and appeared on television, radio, and podcast interviews in outlets including BBC World, NPR, and C-Span

Kirshner’s 2019 book Broke: Hardship and Resilience in a City of Broken Promises, published by St. Martin’s, provides a human-centered account of what a municipal bankruptcy process can and cannot do, focused on Detroit, and the lessons that bankruptcy holds for other cities suffering from economic transformation, structural poverty, and reduced federal and state fiscal support. The book argues for renewed investment into cities’ human capital, including through education, training, and entrepreneurship, in order to increase employment and access to opportunity, and thereby also bolster the resiliency of cities themselves. Among its commendations, Broke was named a New York Times Editor’s Choice, a Michigan Notable Book, a finalist for the J. Anthony Lukas Prize, and winner of the Tillie Olsen award. The Kresge Foundation supported the research.

Until 2014, Kirshner was a law professor at Cambridge University, where she served as the deputy director of the Cambridge LL.M. program, the deputy director of the Cambridge Centre for Corporate and Commercial Law, and as a fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge. Currently she teaches bankruptcy law at Columbia Law School, drawing from her book International Bankruptcy: The Challenge of Insolvency in a Global Economy, published by University of Chicago Press. She has acted as a technical advisor to the Bank for International Settlements, and as an independent consultant for financial funds investing in distressed debt and other organizations working in the broad field of economic mobility.

Kirshner received her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and graduate degrees in law and in journalism from Columbia University. She studied as a Fulbright Scholar at Oxford University and completed funded postdocs at the London Business School and Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Law in Hamburg, Germany. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute and a senior research associate of the Cambridge Centre for Business Research. She is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, the Salzburg Global Seminar, the Columbia Law School Center for Law and Economics, and the Center for Law Economics & Finance in Washington, a member of the Century Association, and former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is admitted to the New York Bar.