In times of economic uncertainty when 41% of births are to unmarried mothers in this country, poor single mothers are often vilified for their poor life choices. Much is assumed about why they put motherhood before marriage, but Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas actually attempted to find out by spending five years living in the poor inner-city neighborhoods of Philadelphia (where poverty similarly affects women of various racial groups) and interviewing poor single mothers. Promises I can keep: why poor women put motherhood before marriage gives voice to poor single mothers, who revere marriage rather than reject it. Marriage is seen as an elusive but deeply cherished goal, for which childbearing should not be delayed. Most interviewees place a high value on children, seeing motherhood as a rare positive social role they can fulfill, albeit slightly earlier than envisioned. Many mothers retrospectively credit their children as sources of validation, purpose, connection and order, which have improved their lives despite the hardships motherhood entailed. Edin and Kefalas maintain a sympathetic but objective academic tone, and manages to portray such women as rational actors with mainstream values, but facing a different set of opportunity costs with respect to early motherhood. Although subject to selection bias, I highly recommend reading this on-the-ground sociological account to understand this often-criticized social trend.
Very interesting book. Repetitive at times. Otherwise a great read!