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Kathryn Edin, Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Harvard Kennedy School, is one of the nation’s leading poverty researchers. The hallmark of her research is her direct, in-depth observations of the lives of low-income women and men and is particularly interested in questions about the urban poor that have not been fully answered by quantitative work: How do single mothers possibly survive on welfare? 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?
Kathy is the author of six books and more than 50 journal articles. The most recent, Doing the Best I Can: Fathering in the Inner City, written with Timothy Nelson, will be published in May, 2013 by the University of California Press. A strikingly rich, paradigm-shifting look at fatherhood among inner-city men, who are so often dismissed as “deadbeat dads,” Doing the Best I Can shows how mammoth economic and cultural changes have transformed the meaning of fatherhood among the urban poor. The book reveals a radical redefinition of family life, one that has revolutionized the meaning of fatherhood among inner-city men.
In the award-winning Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage, Kathy Edin and her co-author, Maria Kefalas, sought to answer the question of why so many low-income women were having children without marrying, Based on in-depth interviews and observations, the authors found that, rather than undervaluing marriage, low-income women held marriage to a very high bar. Child rearing was so central to their views of themselves that they were unwilling to postpone starting families until they could find suitable husbands, which could take years, if ever. In its review, the Wall Street Journal said the authors, “overthrow decades of conventional wisdom.”
The Russell Sage Foundation published Kathy Edin’s first book, Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work, written with Laura Lein. This work shed new light on a question that was central to the ongoing debate about welfare reform: Why weren’t single mothers working? Edin and Lein found that most mothers were working – largely off-the-books – and combining resources from several sources (welfare, work, the fathers of their children, grandmothers) in order to make ends meet for themselves and their children. The book generated widespread interest and debate, and led to a profile of Edin in the New York Times Magazine.
A frequent commentator for print and broadcast media, Kathy Edin has also testified before the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on welfare and marriage issues. She is chair of Harvard’s Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. She is a Trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation, a member of ASPE’s Self Sufficiency Working Group, and on HHS’s advisory committee for the poverty research centers at Michigan, Wisconsin, and Stanford. She is a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Network on Housing and Families with Young Children and a past member of the MacArthur Network on the Family and the Economy.
For a complete list of faculty citations from 2001 - present, please visit the Harvard Kennedy School Research Report Online.