“With a clear-eyed honesty and frankness, Edin and Nelson probe the experiences of fathers among our urban poor, and what they discover is both surprising and hopeful. Edin and Nelson should be applauded for their bold on-the-ground research which pushes us to consider that men whose lives are often marked by disorder having children can often be a stabilizing force. Doing the Best I Can turns many of our assumptions about fatherhood on their head.”

— Alex Kotlowitz, Author of There Are No Children Here


When Having Babies Beats Marriage

IN FEBRUARY The New York Times ran a story under the provocative headline, “For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside of Marriage.” The article suggested childbearing outside of marriage was the “new normal”—that recently released data signaled a “coming generational change” in Americans’ attitudes toward family formation. It was a dramatic story, but sociologist Kathryn Edin says it obscured the truth about how childbearing is changing in the United States…

Parenthood and Poverty in the Inner City

For this week’s installment of our series Strapped: A Look at Poverty in America, Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson examine the problems of extreme poverty in cities like Camden, NJ (the poorest city in the country), Baltimore, and Philadelphia. They also investigate a number of the questions many have about the urban poor, such as: How do single mothers survive on welfare? Why were so many low-income women having children without marrying, when doing so seems so difficult…

DBIC The Atlantic
Race, Culture, & Poverty: The Path Forward

One thing that happens in the kind of debates we’ve just seen between myself and Jonathan Chait is that people count up points to see who’s sonned who. I shall be honest here: I prefer to son than be sonned. But if the conversation ends merely in sonnage, we’ve lost something. For black people, this conversation is not an abstract thought experiment nor merely a stimulating debate, after which we may repair to our lounges and exchange quips over martinis. These are out lives…

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Truthdigger of the Week:
Dr. Kathryn Edin

Many of us don’t enjoy being told we’re wrong about things we feel we know well. Nonetheless the march of progress—which, admittedly and altogether, seems to have stalled for a length of time—requires that a committed and thick-skinned few occasionally turn our presumed understanding upside down and see what falls out. Kathryn Edin is such a person. A Johns Hopkins University sociologist, Edin, 51, became “one of the nation’s preeminent poverty researchers” over a course of…

Kathryn Edin and Joe White
What If Everything You Knew About Poverty Was Wrong?

BLOND AND MIDWESTERN CHEERFUL, Kathryn Edin could be a cruise director, except that instead of showing off the lido deck, she’s pointing out where the sex traffickers live off a run-down strip of East Camden, New Jersey. Her blue eyes sparkle as she highlights neighborhood landmarks: the scene of a hostage standoff where police shot a man after he’d murdered a couple in their home and abducted their four-year-old; the front yard where a guy was gunned down after trying to settle…

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Time to Try Compassion, Not Censure, for Families

Nearly 50 years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, assistant secretary of labor for President Lyndon B. Johnson, noted that nearly a quarter of African-American children were born to single mothers and proposed that this “deterioration of the Negro family” was “at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society.” Mr. Moynihan’s now-famous analysis has infused the nation’s approach to social assistance for over a generation. Whether it was his intent or not, it inspired…

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What About the Fathers?

As the author of two books about low-income single mothers, I often give talks or appear on call-in shows. Audiences always want to know about the men single mothers have children with. They ask me, “Why don’t you talk to the dads? What about the fathers?” I used to brush the question aside. After all, I had spent years living and talking with black, white, and Hispanic single mothers in some of the nation’s toughest urban neighborhoods in Philadelphia, Chicago, the deep South…

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Not-So-Deadbeat Dads

If your doctor reports that she’s doing the best she can, what are you thinking? How about if your plumber tells you the same thing? Even my pilot’s best efforts to land the plane after an engine failure that was clearly not his fault don’t inspire me to expect a good landing. In short, “doing the best I can” implies that something desirable is lacking, regardless of where the fault lies. This is certainly the case for the inner-city single fathers in Kathryn Edin and Timothy…

The Washington Post Review

It’s hard to find a more despised group than inner-city fathers who sire children they cannot — or will not — support. A decade ago, I was involved in interventions that sought to improve nonresident fathers’ ties with their children. These were supported as part of an effort funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reduce infant mortality in Flint, Mich. Although most of the work focused on young mothers and their children, we were frequently asked: “What…

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Father’s Day Faces of Public Health: Tim Nelson

In Doing the Best I Can, Tim Nelson, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard, and his co-author, Kathryn Edin, a professor of policy and management at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, take a close look at the inaccurate stereotypes about low-income fathers and how a different approach could lead to more stable, healthier families. The book also calls for reforms in the U.S. including regularly incorporating visitation into child-support orders and improving systemic…

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Rethinking What It Means to be a Deadbeat Dad

Co-author of Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City, Kathryn Edin joins The Cycle to re-formulate the definition of a dead beat dad.

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Inner City Fathers Face Challenges and Possibility

The cultural narrative around fathers in urban areas is still one that assumes they are absent and uninterested. A new book based on years of in-depth reporting dismantles that narrative and offers another, more uplifting one. Authors Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson spent seven years meeting young men in urban areas and lived with the people they profile in Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City, an approach that gives the book much deeper insight into the lives…

Doing the Best I Can Challenges Stereotypes of Poor Unwed Fatherhood

Across the political spectrum, unwed fatherhood is viewed as the scourge of American society with inner-city fathers often dismissed as “deadbeat dads.” But according to scholars Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson, the significant economic and cultural shifts that have transformed society at large have also revolutionized the meaning of fatherhood and family life among the urban poor. These mammoth changes, Edin and Nelson say, are more responsible for this new familial paradigm…

Doing the Best I Can: Radio Times Interview with Marty Moss-Coane

Economic uncertainty affects the well-being of children, especially if they are raised by a single parent living along the poverty line. Sociologists KATHRYN EDIN and TIMOTHY J. NELSON have spent over 10 years interviewed over 100 unwed fathers in Philadelphia and Camden, including moving to East Camden for a year in the mid-90s to deepen their research. The sociologists are trying to help change the perception of these men as “deadbeat dads” – these men do care about their…

City Harvest Presents The Brooklyn Local
The Best Book About Fathers Debunking
“Deadbeat Dad” Stereotype

Doing the Best I Can will change your views about the so called “deadbeat dads.” If you decide you want to be hostile this Father’s Day, you have plenty of good options. You can send the man in your life a link to a 2010 Atlantic piece, “Are Fathers Necessary?” which coldly concludes that “there’s nothing objectively essential about his contribution.” Or you can point out this month’s New York Times “Room for Debate” called “What Are Fathers For?” which makes fatherhood seem…

Frank Relationships | Poor and Parenting in the Inner-City

Parents that are poor and living in the inner-city are a topic of many debates. Some are called “the greatest” and some are called “the worst.” Kathryn Edin and I are going to play with concepts around both, on this edition of Frank Relationships.

Doing the Best I Can Talks With Poor Urban Dads About Unwed Fatherhood

A new book by married-couple social scholars Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson compiles the stories of more than 100 low-income fathers in Philadelphia and Camden—and suggests some intriguing new perspectives. Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson spent seven years in Philadelphia and Camden, asking low-income, unwed fathers to share their stories. In their new book, Doing the Best I Can, they suggest that the stereotype of the deadbeat dad misses something important…

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The Challenges of Fatherhood in the Inner City | All Sides With Ann Fisher

There are many misconceptions about fatherhood among inner-city men who are often dismissed as “deadbeat dads.” This hour, we’ll take a look at how cultural changes have refocused the father-child bond and transformed the meaning of fatherhood among the urban poor. NPR News podcast interview with guests Timothy Nelson, co-author of Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City, and Stephanie Hightower, president of the Columbus Urban League…

Book Review | Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City

When you become a parent, much is expected of you. Of course, you’re expected to feed and clothe your child, to provide shelter and comfort, toys and encouragement. Society expects you to teach morals, kindness, and compassion, and to send your kids to school to learn more. And heck, even the president of the United States expects you to stick around, if you’re the baby’s father. But is parenting really that easy? What makes a good dad? Find out in the new book, Doing the Best I Can

Fatherhood and Poverty: Midday with Dan Rodricks NPR News Interview

Unwed fathers, especially among the urban poor, are often regarded with disdain and scorn. But are the negative stereotypes warranted? What kind of relationships do these men really have with their children? Our guests: Timothy Nelson, lecturer of social policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and the co-author of Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City, which is based on eight years of field work with more than 100 inner-city fathers…

Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City Bookworm Blog Review

Of course, you’re expected to feed and clothe your child, to provide shelter and comfort, toys and encouragement. Society expects you to teach morals, kindness, and compassion, and to send your kids to school to learn more. And heck, even the president of the United States expects you to stick around, if you’re the baby’s father. But is parenting really that easy? What makes a good dad? Find out in the new book, Doing the Best I Can by Kathryn Edin and Timothy J. Nelson…

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Fathers Need Their Children New York Times Review

I’m not sure whether a child needs a father. Sophisticated studies on single motherhood show that the circumstances surrounding such families – poverty, instability – can be rough on children, but not that single motherhood itself is an issue. And from my own decade or so of mother experience and intuition, the answer to what children need seems fairly obvious: at least one loving adult who is a stable, reliable presence; a few more loving adults hopefully thrown into the mix…

New Research On Inner City Fathers

In 1960, 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers. Today, that figure has jumped to more than 40 percent. And in poor, urban areas, the numbers are even higher. Studies show that kids who grow up without fathers are more likely to have behavioral and emotional problems and to remain poor. The public widely believes these fathers are “deadbeat dads” who just don’t care. But new research reveals men who are truly devoted to fatherhood and want to give…

Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity

Do urban poor dads live up to their image as “dead-beats” or do they really care about their kids? Often vilified across the political spectrum, unwed fathers in the inner city are the subject of a paradigm-shifting study and book, Doing the Best the Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City. The authors Kathryn Edin, professor of public policy and management, and Timothy J. Nelson, lecturer in social policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, conclude that we…

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World Notable Books Review

Is it true that unmarried, inner-city fathers don’t care about their kids? That’s the crucial question Edin and Nelson seek to answer in this fascinating, in-depth study of unmarried dads in Camden, N. J., and Philadelphia, Pa. The authors moved to a poor neighborhood in Camden so they could get to know the men they wanted to survey and understand. Their conversations reveal positive attitudes toward fatherhood along with negative behaviors and circumstances that undermine their…