Jacob Riis's illustrated tour of New York's slums had an immediate and extraordinary impact on society, inspiring reforms that changed the face of the city. In 1890, when the book was published, the Lower East Side was a landscape of teeming streets and filthy tenements crowded with immigrants living in dreadful conditions. How the Other Half Livesbrings them to life - the Italians, Jews, Bohemians (Czechs and Slovaks), Blacks, and Chinese - in precise descriptions of their habits and traditions, jobs and wages, rents paid and meals eaten, and explores the effects of crime, poverty, alcohol, and lack of education and opportunity on adults and children alike.
On a separate note, while this edition is ideal because of the photographs, there are far too many typos to make it an ideal edition text-wise. If careful editing is one of your pet peeves (as it is mine), you might consider reading a different text, and just perusing this one for the documentary photography alone.
Still, if you're interested in the subject, this is a worthwhile resource.
Sante, in the introduction, claims that Riis is not so bad as other writers of the time and that may be, but it was jarring, nonetheless.