Public Program: Living on Virtually Nothing in America

The number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million American households, including about three million children. How has this happened? Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? What do they do to survive? There are many components to this issue: low-wage labor, unemployment, inequality, disability. At the core of it, however, are the people that are finding ways to survive amongst these challenges. There are so many questions regarding the causes of extreme poverty, aid, and welfare reform.

On Tuesday, January 31st, Class of 1930 Fellow Kathryn Edin spoke to a packed audience on the challenges of income inequality and offered some answers to these important questions. Edin discussed poverty, policy, and how they affect families in America. Her lecture focused on the complex background and future of income disparity, especially the discovery of households surviving on virtually no cash income. Professor Edin’s deep examination of these increasingly broad families living in extreme poverty has “turned sociology upside down,” Mother Jones reported.

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. Her research focuses on family networks, especially single mothers, the fathers and their disengagement from their children’s lives. How have the lives of the single mothers changed as a result of welfare reform? Edin is the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. She previously served as the Professor for Public Policy and Management at the Harvard Kennedy School and chair of the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy. Additionally, Edin is a founding member of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Network on Housing and Families with Young Children, as well as a past member of the MacArthur Network on the Family and the Economy.

Edin's lecture on “Living on Virtually Nothing in America” took place at the Rockefeller Center on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017.

Submitted by Alexa Green ’19, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant for Public Programs

The views and opinions expressed and any materials presented during a public program are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of the Rockefeller Center or constitute an endorsement by the Center.