How the Other Half Lives
In How the Other Half Lives, Riis startles readers with the following statement “Long ago it was said that ‘one half of the world does not know how the other half lives.’ That was true then. It did not know because it did not care. The half that was on top cared little for the struggles, and less for the fate of those who were underneath, so long as it was able to hold them there and keep its own seat”(Riis, 5). This book definitely changes history in a material way affecting the lives of millions of people, Jacob Riis exact purpose for writing it. This introduction is merely a tidbit of information that immigrants in New York City had to face through the working and living conditions at the turn of the century. As New York City grew in population, immigrants came mostly from Germany and Ireland and later from Eastern Europe and Italy. Most families were receiving little income which narrowed their choices of living. These dark, cramped, unsanitary homes that nearly 500,000 immigrants were living in were called tenements. They were pieces of old buildings and some new all brought together and built up to a great height, without regarding the strength of the building foundations to give shelter to the unfortunate. These poor houses sadly became so valuable to thousands and these “slums” became homes. Living conditions in this late 19th century was depressing and an era filled with hard work and did not exactly offer a good future for the average person. The New York City residents experienced many problems in society living in these dumps including crowding, unsanitary living, and just the depressing future that lay ahead of them.
Overcrowding became a social issue that lead to many hazardous complications. Around three-fourths of New York residents lived in these tenant houses. These people were subjugated to pay considerably large amounts of money for such a tiny room. These tenant houses could hold up to nearly twelve...
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