Hinckley Lecture: Dr. Edin shares stories of impoverished American families

Edin is more than a desk researcher. She has gone into the trenches to fix the American problem of poverty. Edin has met and worked with hundreds of individuals and families to learn from them what their struggles and successes are. The surveys, interviews, and research Edin has done has raised the cry of the impoverished American family.

“Edin has gotten up close and personal with the people she studies—and in the process has shattered many myths about the poor, rocking sociology and public-policy circles,” said Stephanie Mencimer of Mother Jones regarding Edin’s book, Doing the Best I Can: Fathering in the Inner City 

Her work has found unexpected answers to the following questions:

  • How do single mothers possibly survive on welfare?
  • Why don’t more go to work?
  • Why do they end up as single mothers in the first place?
  • Where are the fathers and why do they disengage from their children’s lives?
  • How have the lives of the single mothers changed as a result of welfare reform?


Edin found that unmarried fathers are not always “deadbeat dads.” Many of these men adore their children, such as this teenage father, Andre, quoted in her book, Doing the Best I Can:

I always wanted my own child. People didn’t understand me. They like, ‘How you gonna take care of this baby? This baby is going to be born in poverty’ and all this stuff. That’s what they was saying.” But Andre shrugged off these negative assessments. “To them it was a mistake, you know. My daughter wasn’t no mistake to me!” He adds, pointing proudly to the sleeping child, Jalissa, “My daughter, she is the bomb!”

Edin has worked with the challenges unmarried mothers face as well. In her book, Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage WorkEdin debunked the myth that single mothers may take advantage of government welfare. She found that single mothers work “off-the-books” to support their children. Single mothers often combine welfare, work, money from the children’s father, and money from grandmothers–even with those several incomes, that still is not enough. 

Edin went a step further, to bust the myth that those living off welfare do so because they are lazy and want a hand-out. Edin reports her findings in her book $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America . John Hopkins Magazine reviewed Edin’s work and said:

To the contrary, the people Edin studied embody what Americans like to think are the cardinal virtues of upstanding citizens. They are resourceful, inventive, thrifty, and not just willing to work but eager to work. They seize every opportunity for employment and want nothing as badly as they want stable, full-time jobs. But they have fallen out of the 21st-century U.S. economy at a time when there is little in the way of a net to catch them, and they face overwhelming obstacles to clawing their way back up. And there aren’t a handful of them. There are millions.

719s6j81mllDr. Kathryn Edin has spent years researching how to help impoverished Americans. As noted, her work has helped many understand the real tragedies and triumphs of the poor. Edin knows there are many more unanswered questions, so she continues to speak with hundreds of people in inner-city America.

Edin’s current research includes studies on:

  • the lives of the working poor
  • the inter-generational transmission of poverty among African American young adults
  • the trade offs moderate- and low-income Black, White, and Latino families make when deciding where to live, what kind of place to rent or purchase, and where to send their children to school
  • landlords and the supply side of residential choice for low-income renters.





4 thoughts on “Hinckley Lecture: Dr. Edin shares stories of impoverished American families

  1. Has Dr. Edin’s lecture already passed or is the date incorrect on the announcement?

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