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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Fall 2017 Henry and Bryna David Lecture
Biographical Information

Kathryn Edin
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
Department of Sociology
Johns Hopkins University

Kathryn 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. Her 2015 book, $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.”

She is a Trustee of the Russell Sage Foundation, a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Network on Housing and Families with Young Children, and 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.

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, and, most recently, Harvard University as a Professor of Public Policy and Management at the Harvard Kennedy School and chair of their Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy.


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