kathryn edin

kathryn edin

intro’d to Kathryn here:


So she and Nelson decided to embed with their subjects. In 1995, while teaching at Rutgers University, Edin, Nelson, and their three-year-old daughter moved into a studio apartment near 36th and Westfield in Camden, one of the poorest cities in America. It was the beginning of two years of intensive fieldwork, followed by another five years of interviewing—or, as Edin puts it, “a rich opportunity for learning. Some social scientists will rent an office building and bring people in and interview them. But experiencing what other people are experiencing while you’re studying them is just critical.”
Trauma made the kids “very vigilant,” she says. “They notice everything about you.”
Edin says her willingness to put up with the same routine annoyances as her neighbors helped persuade them to open up. “Lots of people said, ‘We know you’re the real thing. You’re not here just to study us, because you live here, too.'”
“It’s just an expectation of maturity that middle-class parents do not expect their kids to have,” she says. “When you’re poor and you’re a single mom, you have to raise your kids to be tougher and more savvy sooner.”

asked what she was learning from her students. “Everyone cheats,” she said. Jencks perked up and said, “Can you prove it?”

Edin spent the next six years taking a deep dive into welfare home economics, pestering poor mothers in Chicago, Boston, San Antonio, and Charleston about how they managed to survive on benefits that averaged $370 a month. In 1997, she published her findings in a book called Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work. It came on the heels of the Clinton-era welfare reform that overhauled the entitlement system to force single mothers into the workplace.

They didn’t get legal jobs because of a straightforward economic calculus: Low wages drained by child care, transportation, and other expenses would have left them poorer than they were on welfare.

Jencks says that Edin’s work also represented a “methodological innovation.” Rather than obsessing about getting a perfect sample for her study, he says, “she figured out that …

it was really better to get interviews and observations of people who were willing to trust you and would tell you the truth than it was to get interviews of people who were a random sample of the population who’d lie to you. That came as something of a shock to social scientists. The question of whether people were telling the truth had sort of slipped away.”

yes. that. exactly. youth, et al, as token.

This, Edin found, was why low-income women were willing to decouple childbearing from marriage: They believed if they waited until everything was perfect, they might never have children. And children, says Edin, are “the thing in life you can’t live without.” As one subject explained, “I don’t wanna have a big trail of divorce, you know. I’d rather say, ‘Yes, I had my kids out of wedlock’ than say, ‘I married this idiot.’ It’s like a pride thing.”

Before I can ask him a question, Edin jumps in, and I get a look at her technique in real time. She interrogates White, leaning forward with her blue eyes trained on him, hanging on his every word.

the experience reinforced his sense that the welfare system “discourages a lot of guys from wanting to do the right thing.

“These men have a tremendous amount to contribute if we can just find a way.”

a nother way

Edin, for her part, is on to another project. This one involves scouring the streets of Cleveland alongside Nelson, on a pair of purple cruiser bikes, to find the growing population of Americans living on less than $2 a day—”a third-world measure of poverty in first-world America,” Edin says.

Nelson and Edin marvel at how little policymakers know about the economic realities that poor people face.

This is one reason why “people have been lulled into complacency thinking poverty is solved.” With the new book, Edin says, “we’re hoping to stoke the American conscience. These people are not a dependent class. They’re trying to do the right thing.”

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so resonating with the last 5 yrs. hearing/seeing/being immersed in actuality.. rather than speculation and/or coerced stories by token voices.


2013 in australia:

prior to 1996 we kind of had a level playing field for poor.. i’m now looking at the profound winners and losers

in 1996 we changed the social contract for poor folks… because deep in our mythology is this work ethic

ie: if you work you shouldn’t be poor

very easy to be working and poor if you don’t have a college education in america..

also easy with college ed.. no? and also cause of poorness.. no? college debt et al

so – if you didn’t work – weren’t going to get welfare.. so went from 5.1 million to 1.8 million households receiving welfare – only 1.1 million adults are on the rolls today. welfare is all but dead in america.. but wouldn’t know that from watching fox news, or presidential debate ..et al…

pulling 3.3 million children out of poverty.. but 2.8 million in us today.. on other end.. big winners and big losers..


april 2013 at uni of queensland, australia:

has the move from a need-based (wiped out in 1996 welfare reform) to a work based safety net transformed the nature of the welfare state

8 min – Zelizer – more than the delivery.. the different social meanings: gift, entitlement, compensation…

12 min – call it a refund and not a benefit.. most don’t know it’s a transfer (eitc – earned income tax credit) – they’ll say they earned it (reward for playing by the rules)

26 min – people (policy makers) think if you give poor people a big check – they’ll buy big screen tvs, like winning the lottery.. but actually:

edin chart

30 min – incredible personal stories.. – considerable psychological relief

32 min – workers believe they are entitled to splurge – on treats.. kids’ money – want over needs… they felt like a million dollars because they actually got what they wanted, ie: clothes

the once/yr is a forced savings – which allows for me-money

we would like to get a house – in order to be a family

39 min – employment in america is equivalent to citizenship

1. employment 2. through h&r like everyone else 3. lump sum (savings ness) 4. encourages to work

41 min – why do you use h&r block? – because i’ve got people

43 min – nothing has changed (ie: from 1997 making ends meet) and everything has changed

we definitely need to figure out a way to fix the eitc

45 min – i think if we could get rid of the debt part and keep up the forced savings part..


find/follow Kathryn:


wikipedia small





money ness



nov 2015 – w Ta Nehisi Coates (notes on his page)



Matthew Desmond acknowledges Kathryn in evicted..


blood industry