Literature Study GuidesHow The Other Half Lives

How the Other Half Lives | Study Guide

Jacob A.Riis

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Course Hero. "How the Other Half Lives Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 June 2019. Web. 26 June 2022. <>.

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(Course Hero, 2019)



Course Hero. "How the Other Half Lives Study Guide." June 7, 2019. Accessed June 26, 2022.


Course Hero, "How the Other Half Lives Study Guide," June 7, 2019, accessed June 26, 2022,



Jacob A.Riis

Year Published





Argument, Economics, History

At a Glance

How the Other Half Lives is an examination of tenement life in the slums of New York City during the 1880s. It devotes specific attention to each ethnicity in those districts, along with a focus on the area's children and women. Individual groups are described in terms of their cultural characteristics, with analysis of how each has adapted to an existence marked by poverty, crime, and a lack of opportunity. Riis asserts throughout that the terrible conditions of the tenement slums are largely responsible for the desperate lives of their occupants and, further, that proven ways to end their misery are known and attainable. Above all, the book is a plea for reform, for an end to the shortsighted exploitation of the undereducated poor by landlords and by society at large. It remains relevant both for its photographs—which vividly display a bygone time with uncomfortable similarities to modern life—and for its groundbreaking strategies for fighting poverty.

About the Title

The title How the Other Half Lives references the proverb "Half the world does not know how the other half lives," attributed to French author and clergyman François Rabelais (1494–1553). Riis uses "the other half" as a metaphor for the impoverished half of the population that are ignored and forgotten by the wealthy half.


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