Kathryn Edin

Kathryn Edin is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Interviewers for the project upon which Professor Edin's article is based included

Recent Articles

Few Good Men

It is no secret that the institution of marriage is in trouble. The median age at first marriage is at its highest since the United States began keeping reliable statistics: 24 for women and 26 for men. Nearly six of every 10 new marriages will end in divorce, and the propensity to remarry has also declined. Though these trends cut across race, ethnic, and class lines, poor adults from disadvantaged minority groups marry and remarry far less than others. Whether these trends are a cause for concern or celebration is in the eye of the beholder. Some happily take them as an indication that women can now survive without men who beat them, abuse their children, or are otherwise difficult to live with. Others lament the moral effect on the fabric of American society. Still others worry because of the strong association between growing up with a single parent and a host of negative outcomes for children. Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur's work reveals that half the disadvantage these...

Do Poor Women Have a Right to Bear Children?

The current movement to reform welfare implies an uncomfortable thought: Perhaps poor women don't have the right to bear children. Are we really prepared to say that?

A ffluent adults seldom consider the possibility that others may have to choose between accepting public assistance or dying childless. We prefer to believe that if everyone would act responsibly, they would all be able to support their children without government help. We are particularly keen on three forms of responsible behavior: delaying parenthood until you are in your twenties, getting married before you have children, and staying in school. But even if everyone pursued these goals single-mindedly, a significant minority of the population still could not afford children without some kind of government help. When the Clinton administration unveiled its proposals for revamping Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), it said the plan "signals that people should not have children until they are ready to support them." Yet for many poor women, that time will never come. Sad to say, there are neither enough good jobs nor enough good husbands to provide every American woman...

The Real Welfare Problem

A new study documents that in major cities, a welfare check barely pays rent and utilities.

T he Family Support Act, America's most recent effort at welfare reform, begins to take effect this year. The new law seeks to get single mothers off welfare through a combination of job training, work requirements, child care subsidies, and child support enforcement. Cutting the welfare rolls is, in turn, supposed to save the taxpayer money while enhancing the self-respect of single mothers and their children. Like countless earlier attempts at welfare reform, the new law is unlikely to change much. Judging by the experience of states that have already established compulsory training programs and work requirements, it will not save the taxpayer much money. Nor will it move many single mothers off the welfare rolls. The reason is simple: single mothers do not turn to welfare because they are pathologically dependent on handouts or unusually reluctant to work. They turn to welfare because they cannot get jobs that pay any better than welfare. Since the new law will not do much to...