Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage

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"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 ...

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Apr 13, 2012


Everyone should read this book. It helps explain why the poor -- irrespective of race -- act as they do, and why the pattern of children-before-marriage (if there ever is a marriage) is creeping upwards to the not-so-poor. The conclusions may astound liberal and conservative alike, but the authors have patiently researched and persuasively stated their case. An important book that deserves a larger readership.

William L. F

Sep 1, 2011

Wonderful insights

Well-written and fun to read, gives unexpected and important insights into the hearts of women in poor communities. Changed my thinking just by informing me.


Mar 13, 2008

Sets a high standard for ethnographic studies

The quotation from William Julius Wilson on the cover sounds "over the top," but it is not: "This is the most important study ever written on motherhood and marriage among low-income urban women." Edin and Kefalas set a high standard for ethnographic research. Unlike many other research projects, they did not simply "dip their feet into a flowing river" (with apologies to Heraclitus). They conducted hundreds of interviews among a diverse population over several years. One of them (Edin) actually lived for several years with her family in one of the neighborhoods: went to church there, shopped there, swapped stories about motherhood. In other words, she actually became part of the community. The final study is a testament to the authors' tenacity, integrity, and professionalism. It is not difficult to understand why it won a major award. On a final note, if you are expecting extensive theoretical justification, you may be disappointed. This study is exceptionally well-written and rich in detail, but it is not, and does not pretend to be, "theoretical" -- at least in the postmodern or critical sense. From my point of view, this is a merit, not a defect. Edin and Kefalas make a parsimonious, but profound claim regarding single urban mothers and support it with seemingly unimpeachable data. For most auditors, that counts as elegance. Elegance is enough.

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