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University of Texas
School of Social Work
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Low-Income Non-Residential Fathers: Income, Expenses, and Contributions to Families

An article on the pilot data is available at

Principal Investigator:
Laura Lein, Ph.D.
Kathryn Edin, Rutgers University

Duration: 8/96 - ongoing

This project's first phase was funded by the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration, to study the ability and willingness of low-income, non-residential fathers to participate, both financially and otherwise, on an informal and formal level in the lives of their children. It has recently been funded for a second phase by The Russell Sage Foundation. This project follows, and in some sense parallels, earlier work by Kathryn Edin at Rutgers University and Lein on the financial lives of low-income, single-mother households. Through that earlier work, Edin and Lein learned that non-residential fathers make significant, although often covert, cash contributions to mothers' households. However, the earlier study used only mothers' reports of fathers' involvement. This research will develop profiles of the financial lives of these contributing fathers. The information will allow analysis of fathers' expenditures, level and sources of income, ability to make contributions to mothers' households, and fathers' experience of material hardship.

In order to acquire a detailed budget for low-income men, the proposed methodology draws on ethnographic techniques. Respondents will be interviewed during two different time periods, in open-ended interviews that may extend over several visits. The interview will cover not only the financial details of men's lives, but also their attitudes toward both expenditure and income strategies.

This research will allow us to assess the degree to which low-income men are limited by their labor force options in their ability to contribute more to the households containing their children. It will also allow the researchers to examine how realistic it is to expect father contributions to pull poor children out of poverty. In addition, the study will examine the reasons fathers maintain covert relationships with their children.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Russell Sage Foundation