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Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work (European Studies) Paperback – April 17, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0871542342 ISBN-10: 087154234X

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Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work (European Studies) + The Other America:  Poverty in the United States + The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy, Second Edition
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Product Details

  • Series: European Studies
  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Russell Sage Foundation (April 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087154234X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871542342
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #360,544 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

One of the unsettling facts that emerges out of Making Ends Meet, by Kathryn Edin and Laura Lein, is that mothers who work outside the home spend twice as much per month as welfare mothers on such necessities as transportation, health care, day care, and housing. Yet many women continue to move--or are being pushed by politicians--off welfare into jobs in the forlorn hope that those positions would one day lead to better careers. Almost inevitably, the economic realities of trying to raise families on the wages from low-paying jobs would force them back on government assistance. Making Ends Meet is a study commissioned by the Russell Sage Foundation, and its disturbing conclusions expose as myth the view prevalent in Washington, D.C., and the country at large that if people would just get jobs they could pull themselves out of poverty.

From Library Journal

The disparity between research and much of recent federal and state welfare reform is again apparent in this practical study of the economic lives of mothers on welfare or in low-wage employment. The authors interviewed 379 welfare- and wage-reliant mothers in four cities. Their study plainly displays the hardship for women on welfare and the even greater hardship for mothers engaging in low-wage work. The discussion centers on how these mothers meet expenses and what survival strategies they employ to obtain basic necessities. It shows the difficulties of making a transition from welfare to work, including the critical role of child-care costs, lack of access to healthcare, and concern for the emotional needs and supervision of their children. The authors have previously written on this and related topics, Edin from Rutgers University on the economic struggles of poor women and Lein from the University of Texas at Austin on women and work. All academic and public libraries will want this important and timely study.?Mary Jane Brustman, SUNY at Albany Libs.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Aaron Swartz on May 7, 2006
Format: Paperback
Bill Clinton ran for President campaigning to end "welfare as we know it" and Republicans cheered him on, arguing that welfare mothers (since America's only real welfare program -- Aid to Families with Dependent Children or AFDC -- goes to single mothers raising children) were simply being lazy and had to be forced to work. The TV pundits and the politicians argued about this perhaps, but nobody challenged the fundamental premises.

Edin and Lein decided to do something different. Instead of squabbling about politics, they went out into the field and actually interviewed mothers on welfare. Their study was as rigorous as can be imagined -- they visited four cities, talked to dozens of mothers, and went over the books with them until all the numbers balanced out, finding exactly where they got their money and what they spent it on.

What they found was shocking. Far from being lazy, mothers on welfare in fact all worked. In addition to putting in time raising their children (or getting neighborhood women to do it, since expensive daycare was out of the question), they worked serious jobs under-the-table. There simply was no other way to make ends meet. In their entire study, Edin and Lein only found one mother who didn't work any other jobs -- and the neighbors called social services on her because she looked so bad.

After looking at this evidence, it's hard to think of the politicians who cut AFDC in an attempt to move welfare mothers into the workforce they already clung to for survival as anything other than heartless monsters. And their number is well-represented in the introduction by Harvard professor Christopher Jencks, who diddles away the facts in an attempt to avoid seeming partisan, and has cautiously endorsed welfare reform in other forums.

Anyone who wants to be taken seriously on the topic of welfare must read this book and understand the realities of the subject they're discussing.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Michael Miller ( on August 20, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book is a year late to influence the Congressional welfare reform debate.

It is on time for the state level debate and policy development that must follow federal reform.

This book acts as a smart bomb to mythic misconceptions, nostalgia and ideology surrounding welfare reform.

Edin's research and writing were formerly available through the Wisconsin based Institute for Research on Poverty. Her work proved a significant resource in my advocacy for effective and compassionate welfare reform in Tennessee. You will encounter the real world of American poverty in this book.

The President and Congress should read it with regret for their actions and Governors should read it for courage as they bear the weight of devolved welfare responsibility. Advocates and policy wonks should read it as essential.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Excellent statistical and investigative work that predates, but informs, much of the information we will get about the efficacy of welfare reform. Supports of both Charles Murray and Christopher Jencks will find materials in here that support and challenge their views. There are a few methodological problems with this book, however. Because the authors rely on word-of-mouth for their data sample, they over-sample those poor mothers who have social ties, and this probably skews their sample away from society's most *truly* destitude. Nonetheless, this remains an essential read given the extreme weakness of other data on the subject.
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Format: Paperback
Researched before but published just after the 1996 welfare reform (when Bill Clinton made good on his promise to "End welfare as we know it"), "Making Ends Meet" by Edin and Lein made quite a splash among social scientists and other who were interested in the economic facts of life for welfare recipients. This is the first study to look in detail at the monthly budgets of welfare recipients. The authors show that welfare payments consistently fall short of the monthly needs of mothers and their children, with the shortfalls being worst among employed mothers (because of the additional expenses incurred for clothes, transportation, child care, and the reductions in benefits associated with work). They show that mothers use a variety of strategies to "make ends meet," combining various alternate sources of income, including unreported gifts from boyfriends and childrens' fathers; unreported income from informal jobs like babysitting and housecleaning; and illegal income from criminal activities like occasional prostitution and drug dealing. The authors highlight the (then-current) welfare rules that made it extremely difficult to get by without breaking the rules or the law, and they neither endorse nor condemn these activities, but they do make a number of policy suggestions.

Welfare rules have changed considerably over the past 15 years, rendering "Making Ends Meet" somewhat out of date. The changes that most affect the ability of recipients to make ends meet are those that reduce the costs and benefits of employment by subsidizing child care, health care, transportation and clothes, and by reducing the proportion of wages that employed recipients must pay back to the welfare agency. Still, most of the difficulties of survival on welfare likely remain much the same as they were in the mid-1990s.
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