Kathryn Edin

Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs,
Woodrow Wilson School
Email Address: 
Office Location: 
Wallace Hall 254

PhD, Northwestern University, 1989

MA, Northwestern University, 1988

BA, North Park College, 1984

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

Edin received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from North Park University and a Ph.D. in sociology from Northwestern University. She has previously taught at Rutgers University, Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and Johns Hopkins University.

Publications List: 


Coming of Age in the Other America (with Stefanie DeLuca and Susan Clampet-Lundquist), 2016


$2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America (with Luke Shaefer), 2015


It’s Not Like I’m Poor: How Single Mothers Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World (with Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Laura Tach, and Jennifer Sykes), 2015


Doing the Best I Can: Fatherhood in the Inner City (with Timothy Nelson), 2013


Promises I Can Keep: How Low Income Women put Motherhood before Marriage (with Maria Kefalas), 2005


Making Ends Meet: How L ow Income Single Mothers survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work (with Laura Lein), 1997