Since 1993, crime has fallen in the United States to historic lows, seeming to legitimize the country’s mix of welfare reform and mass incarceration. The Upper Limit explains the logic of how this strange mix came about. Author François Bonnet examines how, since the 1970s, declining living standards for the poor have defined social and penal policy in the U.S., making welfare more restrictive and punishment harsher. Bonnet sheds light on how low-wage work sets the upper limit of social and penal policy, where welfare must be less attractive than low-wage work and criminal life must be less attractive than welfare. In essence, the living standards of the lowest class of workers in society determine the upper limit for the generosity of welfare, and for the humanity of punishment in that society. The Upper Limit explores these transformations in East New York, a Brooklyn neighborhood with falling crime rates, to show the consequences of this punitive adjustment. Bonnet argues for redistributive policies, specifically the highest possible living standards and minimum wage, as the only way to eradicate the consequences of extreme concentrations of wealth and poverty. Enlightening and provocative, The Upper Limit provides a comprehensive theory of the evolution of social and penal policy in the U.S. today.