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Kathryn Edin

William Church Osborn Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs, Princeton University

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About Kathryn

Edin’s research focuses on the social safety net (welfare and the Earned Income Tax Credit), family structure and child wellbeing, and housing and neighborhoods. She is a member of the MacArthur Network on Housing and Children, which is about to launch a multi-year study of how families at or below Area Median Income make housing, school, and neighborhood tradeoffs. She is Co-Principal Investigator of the qualitative study for this effort, with Stefanie DeLuca. The network’s broader goal is to understand how multiple contexts, rather than a single domain (i.e. housing), impacts child wellbeing.


$2-a-Day Poverty in the United States

  • Luke Shaefer

In the News

Quoted by Leslie Brody in "A Class on 'Life Knowledge' Offered at a New York City Charter School," Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2018.
Quoted by in "Why Would-Be Parents Should Choose to Get Married," The Economist, November 25, 2017.
Research discussed by Jack Lessenberry, in "Michigan’s Actions Snapshot of Society’s Attitude toward Poor," The Blade, January 13, 2017.
Opinion: "Twenty Years Since Welfare 'Reform'," Kathryn Edin (with Luke Shaefer), The Atlantic, August 22, 2016.
Quoted by Robert Pear in "Political Rifts over Bill Clinton’s Welfare Law Resurface as Aid Shrinks," New York Times, May 20, 2016.
Research discussed by Emily Badger, in "Why Becoming an Adult Means Something Very Different when You’re Poor," The Washington Post , April 19, 2016.
Research discussed by Katie Pearce, in "Johns Hopkins Sociologists Take In-Depth Look at Disparate Paths of Baltimore Youth," Hub, April 19, 2016.
Quoted by Max Ehrenfreund in "Bernie Sanders is Right: Bill Clinton’s Welfare Law Doubled Extreme Poverty," The Washington Post, February 27, 2016.
Research discussed by Renée Loth, in "Millions are Living on $2 a Day - Yes, in the United States," Cognoscenti, November 13, 2015.
Research discussed by Julia M. Klein, in "What is It Like to Live on '$2.00 a Day'? New Book Examines Deep Poverty in the U.S.," Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2015.
Quoted by Zeeshan Aleem in "Here's What It's Like Trying to Survive on Less than $2 a Day in America," Mic, September 24, 2015.
Research discussed by Jared Bernstein, in "America's Poorest are Getting Virtually No Assistance," The Atlantic, September 6, 2015.
Research discussed by Ezra Levin, in "Rainy Day EITC: A New Idea to Boost Financial Security for Low-Wage Workers," CFED, September 3, 2015.
Opinion: "Living on $2 a Day in America," Kathryn Edin, Los Angeles Times, September 3, 2015.
Quoted by Jonathan Cohn in "This is What It's Like to Live on $2 a Day," Huffington Post, September 3, 2015.
Research discussed by Dylan Matthews, in "Selling Plasma to Survive: How over a Million American Families Live on $2 per Day," Vox, September 2, 2015.
Research discussed by William Julius Wilson, in "‘$2.00 a Day,’ by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer," New York Times, September 2, 2015.
Opinion: "Blood Plasma, Sweat, and Tears," Kathryn Edin, The Atlantic, September 1, 2015.
Quoted by Anjali Shastry in "Sociologists: Increasing Aid to Needy Families Would Break Jobless Cycle," Washington Times, August 31, 2015.
Guest on CSPAN, July 21, 2015.
Research discussed by Jessica Firger, in "Low-Income Fathers More Likely to Give Gifts, Not Money," Newsweek, June 21, 2015.
Quoted by Danielle Paquette in "What It Feels Like to Watch Your Kids Grow Up When You Can’t Pay Child Support," The Washington Post, June 17, 2015.
Research discussed by "Love and Money: How Low-Income Dads Really Provide,", June 15, 2015.
Quoted by in "To Help Black Families, Concentrate on Jobs," Institute for Family Studies, April 21, 2015.
Quoted by Kelly Brooks in "New Johns Hopkins Center to Promote Data-Driven Local Government," John Hopkins News Network, April 20, 2015.
Opinion: "When Taxes Aren’t a Drag," Kathryn Edin (with Laura M. Tach), New York Times, April 13, 2015.
Opinion: "When Taxes Aren’t a Drag," Kathryn Edin, New York Times, April 13, 2015.
Quoted by Ezra Levin in "Happy 40th Birthday to the Nation’s Biggest Economic Mobility Program," The Hill, January 29, 2015.
Quoted by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig in "Why Do Teen Girls in America Want to Get Pregnant?," New Republic, January 26, 2015.
Opinion: "A Cash Lifeline for Boston’s Working Poor," Kathryn Edin (with Sarah Halpern-Meekin), Boston Globe, January 23, 2015.
Opinion: "The Truth about Food Stamps (Hint: They Work and Help Millions)," Kathryn Edin, New Republic, July 29, 2014.
Guest on MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry", June 16, 2013.
Opinion: "Under $2 a Day in America," Kathryn Edin, Huffington Post, March 5, 2012.


"Who are the Not Quite Poor: How EITC Recipients and the Families Are Faring" Social Service Review (forthcoming).
Offers a detailed examination of the spending plans and patterns of receipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit.
"It’s Not Like I’m Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World " (with Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Laura Tach, and Jennifer Sykes) (University of California Press, 2015).
Discusses how recipients of the EITC are faring economically, how they allocate their EITC dollars, and how the cycle of boom and bust the lump sum creates stimulates both debt and aspirations for upward obility
"Moving Teenagers Out of High Risk Neighborhoods: How Girls Fare Better than Boys" (with Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Greg Duncan, and Jeffrey Kling). American Journal of Sociology 116, no. 4 (2011): 1154-89.
Finds that ways in which gendered patterns of how and where to spend leisure, and reactions by agents of social control, shape boys’ and girl’s outcomes differently as they move from high to low poverty environments.
"Extreme Poverty in the United States, 1996 to 2011" (with Luke Shaefer). National Poverty Center (2012).
Shows that the percent of U.S. poor households living on less than $2 per day per person has doubled since welfare return. Also shows that the in-kind safety net – especially Food Stamps – plays a key role in alleviating hardship among these families.
"$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America" (with Luke Shaefer) (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015).
Illuminates a troubling trend: a low-wage labor market that increasingly fails to deliver a living wage, and a growing but hidden landscape of survival strategies among America’s extreme poor. Delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality.
"Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage " (with Maria Kefalas) (University of California Press, 2009).
Shows how the meaning disadvantaged women ascribe to motherhood, and their high standards for marriage, shape their early life course.
"Parenting as a Package Deal: Child Involvement among Unmarried Fathers" (with Laura Tach and Ron Mincy). Demography 47, no. 1 (2009): 181-204.
Examines the extent to which mothers’ and fathers’ repartnering and subsequent child bearing inhibit the frequency of contact between unmarried fathers and their nonresident children. Finds evidence of considerable gatekeeping by the mother when she repartners.
"Making Ends Meet: How Low Income Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Employment" (with Laura Lein) (Russell Sage Foundation, 1997).
Shows that while welfare recipients face a large gap between their incomes and expenditures, the budget gap of low wage workers is greater. Finds that welfare mothers survive by garnering contributions from networks and nonprofits, and by working under the table. Argues that mothers remain on welfare because they would have an even larger budget shortfall to fill, but less time each day to fill it.