Articles, book chapters, and other research publications...

Drawing on years of fieldwork, Doing the Best I Can shows how mammoth economic and cultural changes have transformed the meaning of fatherhood among the urban poor. Intimate interviews with more than 100 fathers make real the significant obstacles faced by low-income men at every step in the familial process: from the difficulties of romantic relationships, to decision-making dilemmas at conception, to the often celebratory moment of birth, and finally to the hardships that accompany the early years of the child's life, and beyond.

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The world of welfare has changed radically. As the poor trade welfare checks for low-wage jobs, their low earnings qualify them for a hefty check come tax time—a combination of the earned income tax credit and other refunds. For many working parents this one check is like hitting the lottery, offering several months’ wages as well as the hope of investing in a better future. Drawing on interviews with 115 families, the authors look at how parents plan to use this annual cash windfall to build up savings, go back to school, and send their kids to college. However, these dreams of upward mobility are often dashed by the difficulty of trying to get by on meager wages. In accessible and engaging prose, It’s Not Like I’m Poor examines the costs and benefits of the new work-based safety net, suggesting ways to augment its strengths so that more of the working poor can realize the promise of a middle-class life.

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Unmarried Couples with Children is a landmark study of the family lives of nearly fifty American children born outside of a marital union at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Based on personal narratives gathered from both mothers and fathers over the first four years of their children’s lives, and told partly in the couples' own words, the story begins before the child is conceived, takes the reader through the tumultuous months of pregnancy to the moment of birth, and on through the child's fourth birthday. It captures in rich detail the complex relationship dynamics and powerful social forces that derail the plans of so many unmarried parents. The volume injects some much-needed reality into the national discussion about family values, and reveals that the issues are more complex than our political discourse suggests.

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Millie Acevedo bore her first child before the age of 16 and dropped out of high school to care for her newborn. Now 27, she is the unmarried mother of three and is raising her kids in one of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods. Would she and her children be better off if she had waited to have them and had married their father first? Why do so many poor American youth like Millie continue to have children before they can afford to take care of them? 

Over a span of five years, sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas talked in-depth with 162 low-income single moms like Millie to learn how they think about marriage and family. Promises I Can Keep offers an intimate look at what marriage and motherhood mean to these women and provides the most extensive on-the-ground study to date of why they put children before marriage despite the daunting challenges they know lie ahead.

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Making Ends Meet demonstrates compellingly why the choice between welfare and work is more complex and risky than is commonly recognized by politicians, the media, or the public. Almost all the welfare-reliant women interviewed by Edin and Lein made repeated efforts to leave welfare for work, only to be forced to return when they lost their jobs, a child became ill, or they could not cover their bills with their wages. Mothers who managed more stable employment usually benefited from a variety of mitigating circumstances such as having a relative willing to watch their children for free, regular child support payments, or very low housing, medical, or commuting costs.

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2013 Tach, Laura and Kathryn Edin.  “The Compositional and Institutional Sources of Union Dissolution for Married and Unmarried Parents.”  Demography.  Forthcoming.

2013 H. Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin.  “Rising Extreme Poverty in the United States and the Response of Federal Means-Tested Transfer Programs.”  Social Service Review.  8(2):250-268

2013 Turney, Kristin, Rebecca Kissane and Kathryn Edin. “After Moving to Opportunity:  How Moving to a Low Poverty Neighborhood Improves Mental Health among African-American Women.”  Society and Mental Health.  3:1-21g\.

2012 Edin, Kathryn, Stefanie DeLuca and Ann Owens.  “Constrained Compliance: Solving the Mystery of MTO Lease-Up Rates and Why Mobility Matters.”  Cityscape.  14(2):181-194.

2012 Mendenhall, Ruby, Kathryn Edin, Susan Crowley, Jennifer Sykes, Laura Tach, Katrin Kriz and Jeffrey R. Kling.  “The Role of the Earned Income Tax Credit in the Budgets of Low-Income Families.”  Social Service Review.  86(3):367-400.

2011 Clampet-Lundquist, Susan, Kathryn Edin, Greg Duncan and Jeffrey Kling.  “Moving Teenagers Out of High Risk Neighborhoods:  How Girls Fare Better than Boys.  American Journal of Sociology.  116(4): 1154-89.

2011 Edin, Kathryn and Laura Tach.  “Becoming a Parent: Social Contexts of Fertility During Young Adulthood.”  In Early Adulthood in a Family Context.  Booth, Alan, Susan L. Brown, Nancy S. Landale, Wendy D. Manning and Susan M McHale, Eds.  New York, NY: Springer.  185-208.

2011 Edin, Kathryn, Timothy Nelson and Joanna Reed.  “Daddy, Baby; Momma Maybe: Low Income Urban Fathers and the ‘Package Deal’ of Family Life.”  In Social Class and Changing Families in an Unequal America.  Paula England and Marcia Carlson, eds.  Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.  85-107.

2011 Tach, Laura and Kathryn Edin.  “Young Disadvantaged Men as Partners.”  Young Disadvantaged Men: Fathers, Families, Poverty, and Policy.  Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  635(1): 76-94.

2010 Edin, Kathryn and Rebecca J. Kissane.  “Poverty and the Family: A Decade in Review.”  Journal of Marriage and Family.  72(3): 460–479.

2009 Boyd, Melody, Kathryn Edin, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, and Greg Duncan.  “The Durability of Gains from the Gautreaux Two Residential Mobility Program: A Qualitative Analysis of Who Stays and Who Moves from Low-Poverty Neighborhoods.  Housing Policy Debate.  20(1): 119-146.

2009 Tach, Laura, Ronald Mincy and Kathryn Edin.  “Parenting as a Package Deal: Child Involvement among Unmarried Fathers.”  Demography.  47(1): 181-204.

2009 Augustine, Jennifer, Timothy Nelson and Kathryn Edin.  “Low Income Non Custodial Men’s Role in Fertility Decisions.”  Pathways to Fatherhood: A Transatlantic Perspective.  Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  624(1): 99-117. 

2009 Edin, Kathryn, Laura Tach and Ronald Mincy.  “Claiming Fatherhood: Race and the Dynamics of Father Involvement among Unmarried Men.”  The Moynihan Report Revisited: Lessons and Reflections after Four Decades.  Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  Volume 621: 149-177. 

2007 Edin, Kathryn, Paula England, Emily Fitzgibbons Shafer and Joanna Reed.  “Forming Fragile Families: Was the Baby Planned, Unplanned, or In-Between?” In Unmarried Couples with Children: The Unfolding Lives of New Unmarried Urban Parents.  Paula England and Kathryn Edin, eds.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

2006 Turney, Kristin, Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Kathryn Edin, Jeffrey Kling and Greg Duncan.  Neighborhood Effects on Barriers to Employment: Results from a Randomized Housing Mobility Experiment in Baltimore.”  Brookings-Wharton Papers on Urban Affairs. 

2006 Gibson, Christina, Kathryn Edin and Sara McLanahan.  “High Hopes but Even Higher Expectations: A Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of the Marriage Plans of Unmarried Couples who are New Parents.”  Journal of Marriage and Family. 67(5): 301-1312.

2006 Pashup, Jennifer, Kathryn Edin, Greg Duncan, and Karen Burke.  “Take Up in the New Gautreaux Program.”  Housing Policy Debate 18(3/4): 362-392.

2005 Edin, Kathryn and Joanna M. Reed.  “Why Don’t They Just Get Married?  Barriers to Marriage among the Disadvantaged.”  Future of Children.  15(2): 117-137.

2005 Edin, Kathryn and Maria J. Kefalas.  “Unmarried with Children.”  Contexts.  Spring.  16-22.

2004 Edin, Kathryn, Maria J. Kefalas and Joanna M. Reed.  “A Peek inside the Black Box: What Marriage Means for Poor Unmarried Parents.”  Journal of Marriage and the Family.  67:1007-1014.

2004 London, Andrew, Ellen K. Scott, Kathryn Edin and Vicki Hunter.  “Welfare Reform, Work-Family Tradeoffs, and Child Well-Being.”  Family Relations.  53:148-158.

2004 Ellen K. Scott, Kathryn Edin, Andrew S. London, and Rebecca Joyce Kissane. "Unstable Work, Unstable Income: Implications for Family Well-Being in the Era of Time-Limited Welfare."  Journal of Poverty.  8(1):61-88.

2003 Clampet-Lundquist, Susan, Kathryn Edin, Andrew London, Ellen Scott, and Vicki Hunter.  “Making a Way out of No Way: How Mothers Meet Basic Family Needs while Moving from Welfare to Work.”  In Work-Family Challenges for Low Income Parents and Their Children.  Ann C. Crouter and Alan Booth, eds.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.  Pp. 203-242.

2003 Edin, Kathryn, Timothy J. Nelson, and Rechelle Paranal.  “Fatherhood and Incarceration as Potential Turning Points in the Criminal Careers of Unskilled Men.”  In Imprisoning America: The Social Effects of Mass Incarceration.”  Mary Patillo, David Weiman, and Bruce Western, eds.,   New York: Russell Sage Foundation.  Pp. 46-75.

2003 Michalopoulos, Charles, Kathryn Edin, Barbara Fink, Mirella Landriscina, Denise Polit, Judy Polyne, Lashawn Richburg-Hayes, David Seith, Nandita Verma.  Welfare Reform in Philadelphia: Implementation, Effects, and Experiences of Poor Families and Neighborhoods.  New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation.

2003 Edin, Kathryn.  “Client-Based Ethnographic Research as a Tool for Implementation Analysis.”  In Policy into Action: Implementation Research and Welfare Reform.  Mary Claire Lennon and Thomas Corbett, eds.  Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.  Pp. 165-192.

2002 Nelson, Timothy J., Susan Clampet-Lundquist, and Kathryn Edin.  “Sustaining Fragile Fatherhood: Father Involvement among Low-Income, Non-Custodial, African American Fathers in Philadelphia.”  In The Handbook of Father Involvement: Multidisciplinary Perspectives.  Catherine Tamis-LeMonda and Natasha Cabrera, eds. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Earlbaum Associates.  Pp. 525-553. 

2001 Edin, Kathryn.  “More than Money: The Role of Assets in the Survival Strategies and Material Well-Being of the Poor.”  In Asset Building Among the Poor.  Thomas Shapiro and Edward Wolff, eds.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation.  Pp. 206-231.

2001 Edin, Kathryn and Timothy J. Nelson.  “Working Steady: Race, Low-Wage Work, and Family Involvement among Non-Custodial Fathers in Philadelphia.”  The Problem of the Century: Racial Stratification in the United States at Century’s End.  Douglas S. Massey and Elijah Anderson, eds.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 2001.  Pp. 375-404.

2001 Edin, Kathryn, Laura Lein, and Timothy J. Nelson.  “Taking Care of Business: The Economic Survival Strategies of Low-Income Non-Custodial Fathers.”  In Laboring Below the Line.  Frank Munger, ed.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation.  Pp. 125-147.

2001 Polit, Denise, Rebecca Widom, Kathryn Edin, Stan Bowie, Andrew S. London, Ellen K Scott, Abel Valenzuela.  Is Work Enough? The Experiences of Current and Former Welfare Mothers Who Work.  New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation. 

2001 Scott, Ellen K, Kathryn Edin, Andrew S. London and Joan Maya Mazelis.  “My Children Come First: Welfare-Reliant Women’s Post-TANF Views of Work-Family Tradeoffs and Marriage.”  In For Better and For Worse: Welfare Reform and the Well-Being of Children and Families.  P. Greg Duncan and Lindsay Chase-Lansdale, eds.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation.  Pp. 132-153.            

2001 Scott, Ellen K., Andrew S. London, and Kathryn Edin.  “Looking to the Future: Welfare-Reliant Women Talk About Their Job Aspirations in the Context of Welfare Reform.”  Journal of Social Issues.  56(4).  Pp. 727-746.

2000 Edin, Kathryn.  “How Low-Income Single Mothers Talk About Marriage.”  Social Problems.  47(1): 112-133.

2000 Edin, Kathryn.  “Few Good Men: Why Low-Income Single Mothers Don’t Get Married.”  The American Prospect.  11(4): 26-31.

1999 Quint, Janet, Kathryn Edin, Maria L. Buck, Barbara Fink, Yolanda Padilla, Olis Simmons-Hewitt, and Mary Eustace Valmont.  Big Cities and Welfare Reform: Early Implementation and Ethnographic Findings from the Project on Devolution and Urban Change.  New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation. 

1998 Edin, Kathryn and Laura Lein.  “The Private Safety Net: Welfare Reform, Social Networks, Community Resources, and Family Well-Being.”  Housing Policy Debate.  9(3): 541-574.

1998 Edin, Kathryn and Kathleen Mullan Harris.  “Race Differences in the Process of Working off Welfare.”  In Latinas and African-American Women at Work: Race, Gender, and Economic Inequality.   Irene Brown, ed.  New York: Russell Sage Foundation.  Pp. 270-301.

1997 Edin, Kathryn and Laura Lein.  “Welfare, Work, and Economic Survival Strategies.”  American Sociological Review.  61: 253-266.              

1995 Edin, Kathryn.  “The Myths of Dependency and Self-Sufficiency: Women, Welfare, and Low-Wage Work.”  Focus.  University of Wisconsin-Madison, Institute for Research on Poverty.  17(2): 1-9.

1995 Edin, Kathryn. “Single Mothers and Child Support: Possibilities and Limits of Child Support Policy.”  Child and Youth Services Review.  17(1/2): 203-230.         

1995 Jencks, Christopher and Kathryn Edin.  “Do Poor Women Have the Right to Bear Children?”  The American Prospect.  1(20): 43-52.

1992 Edin, Kathryn and Christopher Jencks.  “Welfare.”  In Rethinking Social Policy.  Christopher Jencks, ed.  Cambridge:  Harvard University Press.  Pp. 204-235.

1992 Edin, Kathryn.  “Counting Chicago’s Homeless: An Assessment of the Census Bureau’s ‘Street and Shelter Night.’” Evaluation Review.  16(4): 365-375.

1991 Edin, Kathryn.  “Surviving the Welfare System: How Welfare Recipients Make Ends Meet in Chicago.”  Social Problems.  38(4): 301-312.

1990 Jencks, Christopher and Kathryn Edin.  “The Real Welfare Problem.” The American Prospect.  1(1): 31-50.