Working from the Margins: Voices of Mothers in Poverty

Virginia E. Schein, Author
Virginia E. Schein, Author Cornell University Press $24.95 (181p) ISBN 978-0-87546-342-1
Hardcover - 192 pages - 978-0-87546-341-4
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Schein, an organizational psychologist, interviewed 30 poor single mothers in cities, small towns and rural areas about work, parenting and welfare. More than half the women she interviewed are white, which helps create a more inclusive picture of poverty than the stereotypical image of a single black urban mother. Whatever their race or region, the women are hardworking, but most put caring for their children over paid employment, a choice that almost inevitably traps them in low-wage jobs with no opportunities for advancement: waitressing, for example, provides immediate cash and a flexible schedule, whereas higher-paying factory jobs do not allow staying home to care for a sick child. Adult education and job-training programs provide the most hope for their future, as well as the most immediate satisfaction. Schein's interviews are brief by ethnographic standards (60 to 90 minutes), and her knowledge of her subjects' life experiences is somewhat superficial, but Working from the Margins nevertheless helps flesh out the evidence of recent quantitative studies showing that full-time employment alone is not enough to lift single mothers out of poverty. (June)
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