School of Social Work:
Room 3.212D
Phone: (512) 471-9248
Fax: (512) 471-9514

Mailing Address:
University of Texas
School of Social Work
1 University Station D3500
Austin, TX 78712-0358



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Low-Wage Employment and Family Involvement Among Low-Income Non-Custodial Fathers

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

Duration: 7/1/98 - ongoing

This study examines the financial and emotional relationships between low-income fathers and their children. The research staff conducted in-depth interviews with a total sample of 360 fathers, 180 interviewed in each of the metropolitan areas of Austin, Texas and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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. The second phase of the study has been funded by The Russell Sage Foundation. This project follows, and in some sense parallels, earlier work by Kathryn Edin at the University of Pennsylvania and Laura 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 analyses 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 were interviewed during two different time periods, in open-ended interviews that may extend over several visits. The interview covered not only the financial details of men's lives, but also their attitudes toward both expenditure and income strategies.

This research allows the researchers 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 also allows the researchers to examine how realistic it is to expect father contributions to pull poor children out of poverty. In addition, the study examines the reasons fathers maintain covert relationships with their children.

Russell Sage Foundation