Kathryn Edin: The Tenuous Attachments of Working-Class Men


Monday, October 28, 2019, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


Wexner 434AB

Kathryn Edin, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and Co-director of the Bendheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University.

Kathryn EdinWe explore how working-class men describe their attachments to work, family, and religion. We draw upon in-depth, life history interviews conducted in four metropolitan areas with racially and ethnically diverse groups of working-class men with a high school diploma but no four-year college degree in black and white working-class neighborhoods in Boston, Charleston, Chicago, and the Philadelphia/Camden area.

These working-class men showed both a detachment from institutions and an engagement with more autonomous forms of work, childrearing, and spirituality, often with an emphasis on generativity, by which we mean a desire to guide and nurture the next generation.

We also discuss the extent to which this autonomous and generative self is also a haphazard self, which may be aligned with counterproductive behaviors.

Finally, we look at racial and ethnic difference in perceptions of social standing.

About the speaker

Kathryn Edin is one of the nation’s leading poverty researchers, working in the domains of welfare and low-wage work, family life, and neighborhood contexts, through direct, in-depth observations of the lives of low-income populations.

A qualitative and mixed-method researcher, she has taken on key mysteries about the urban poor that have not been fully answered by quantitative work: 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? The hallmark of her research is her direct, in-depth observations of the lives of low-income women, men, and children.

Edin has authored 8 books and some 60 journal articles. $2 a Day: The Art of Living on Virtually Nothing in America, co-authored with Luke Shaefer, was met with wide critical acclaim. It was included in The New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2015, cited as “essential reporting about the rise in destitute families.”

Edin is a Trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation, was a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Network on Housing and Families with Young Children and was a past member of the MacArthur Network on the Family and the Economy. 

In 2014, she was elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. She was elected to the National Academy of Social Insurance in 2017.

Learn more about Kathryn Edin's work


See also: Fall 2019