A sobering look at our underclass's past, present and future. From the earliest indentured settlers to the displaced farmers and workers who constitute the ""new poor,"" the author shows how interlocking causes and conditions have perpetuated an ever-waxing cycle of poverty--a cycle that will require imaginative, complex social strategies and policy to break. Coil is specific and current in describing the alphabet soup of programs and legislation; but because she seldom mentions specific cases or situations, the poor remain a faceless, relentlessly growing aggregate of women, children, the elderly, migrant workers, blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans. The poor speak for themselves more often in Meltzer's Poverty in America (1986), still the book of choice on the subject; but this is a good supplementary purchase for its updated statistics and large bibliography. Index; occasional b&w photos.