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Promises I Can Keep

Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage, With a New Preface

Kathryn Edin (Author), Maria Kefalas (Author), Frank Furstenberg (Foreword)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 320 pages
ISBN: 9780520271463
October 2011
$29.95, £24.00
Other Formats Available:
Millie Acevedo bore her first child before the age of 16 and dropped out of high school to care for her newborn. Now 27, she is the unmarried mother of three and is raising her kids in one of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods. Would she and her children be better off if she had waited to have them and had married their father first? Why do so many poor American youth like Millie continue to have children before they can afford to take care of them?

Over a span of five years, sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas talked in-depth with 162 low-income single moms like Millie to learn how they think about marriage and family. Promises I Can Keep offers an intimate look at what marriage and motherhood mean to these women and provides the most extensive on-the-ground study to date of why they put children before marriage despite the daunting challenges they know lie ahead.
Preface to the 2011 Edition

1. “Before We Had a Baby . . .”
2. “When I Got Pregnant . . .”
3. How Does the Dream Die?
4. What Marriage Means
5. Labor of Love
6. How Motherhood Changed My Life
Conclusion: Making Sense of Single Motherhood

Appendix A: City, Neighborhood, and Family Characteristics and Research Methods
Appendix B: Interview Guide
Kathryn Edin is Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University and coauthor of Making Ends Meet (1997). Maria Kefalas is Professor of Sociology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. She is the author of Working-Class Heroes (California, 2003).
“Thankfully, someone has now taken the trouble to ask poor mothers themselves what’s going on. . . . The experts have their theories, but the only real experts are the mothers themselves, and it’s refreshing to hear from them for a change.”—American Prospect
“For all the blathering about family values, few people have actually taken the time to talk to these women. Sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas did, and the answers are startling.”—Bitch: Feminist Response To Pop Culture
“Cogent and persuasive.”—Library Journal
"The pair's refreshingly original results can be found in an essential new book, Promises I Can Keep. Unlike previous explanations for marriageless parenting that seemed so obviously off the mark, Edin and Kefalas' work is a revelation."—Celeste Fremon Ms Magazine
“In the end, the strength of Promises is that Edin and Kefalas have given disenfranchised young single mothers a chance to tell what it's like to be one of them. A careful reading of the book should make policymakers scrap many of their "marriage incentives." If they're serious about improving the lives of poor children and families, they will focus instead on boosting opportunities in communities where having a baby without sufficient means of support or a husband, makes all the sense in the world.”—The Crisis
“Ms. Edin and Ms. Kefalas decisively rescue the young welfare mother from the policy wonks and feminist professors who have held her hostage until recently, and in so doing overthrow decades of conventional wisdom.”—Wall Street Journal
"This is the most important study ever written on motherhood and marriage among low-income urban women. Edin and Kefalas's timely, engaging, and well-written book is a careful ethnographic study that paints an indelible portrait of family life in poor communities and, in the process, provides incredible insights on the explosion of mother-only families within these communities."—William Julius Wilson, author of The Bridge over the Racial Divide

"This book provides the most insightful and comprehensive account I have read of the reasons why many low-income women postpone marriage but don't postpone childbearing. Edin and Kefalas do an excellent job of illuminating the changing meaning of marriage in American society."—Andrew Cherlin, author of Public and Private Families

“Edin and Kefalas provide an original and convincing argument for why low-income women continue to embrace motherhood while postponing and raising the bar on marriage. This book is a must read for students of the family as well as for policy makers and practitioners who hope to rebuild marriage in low-income communities.”—Sara McLanahan, author of Growing Up with a Single Parent

"Promises I Can Keep is the best kind of exploration: honest, incisive and ever-so-original. It'll make you squirm, and that's a good thing, especially since Edin and Kefalas try to make sense of the biggest demographic shift in the last half century. This is a must read for anyone interested in the tangled intersection of family and public policy."—Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here

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