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Promises I Can Keep

Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood before Marriage

KATHRYN EDIN
MARIA KEFALAS
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 3
Pages: 308
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnmxt
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  • Book Info
    Promises I Can Keep
    Book Description:

    Millie Acevedo bore her first child before the age of 16 and dropped out of high school to care for her newborn. Now 27, she is the unmarried mother of three and is raising her kids in one of Philadelphia's poorest neighborhoods. Would she and her children be better off if she had waited to have them and had married their father first? Why do so many poor American youth like Millie continue to have children before they can afford to take care of them? Over a span of five years, sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas talked in-depth with 162 low-income single moms like Millie to learn how they think about marriage and family.Promises I Can Keepoffers an intimate look at what marriage and motherhood mean to these women and provides the most extensive on-the-ground study to date of why they put children before marriage despite the daunting challenges they know lie ahead.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95068-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE TO THE 2011 EDITION
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-26)

    IN SPRING 2002, the cover ofTimemagazine featured a controversial new book that claimed to “tell the truth” to ambitious young women hoping to have children. The book,Creating a Life: Professional Women and the Quest for Children,was written by economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett to “break the silence” about age-related infertility. Most professional women believe that female fertility doesn’t begin to decline until after age forty, but Hewlett claims they are tragically wrong. Shockingly, she reports, the actual age is twenty-seven, and because of their misperception, large numbers of high-achieving women are left involuntarily childless. Having a baby...

  5. ONE “BEFORE WE HAD A BABY ...”
    (pp. 27-49)

    Antonia Rodriguez and her boyfriend Emilio, a young Puerto Rican couple, live in Philadelphia’s West Kensington section, colloquially dubbed “the Badlands” because of all the drug activity and violence there.¹ Both sides of their block are lined with small, unadorned row homes, some well over a hundred years old. A century and a half ago, this densely populated neighborhood was home to hundreds of small manufacturing concerns. Though few of these businesses exist today, the America Street Enterprise Zone, one of four such zones within Philadelphia, has revived some of the area’s industrial vigor. Antonia and Emilio’s immediate neighborhood is...

  6. TWO “WHEN I GOT PREGNANT ...”
    (pp. 50-70)

    Mahkiya Washington, age twenty, her boyfriend Mike, and their seventeen-month-old daughter Ebony live with her sister in an apartment across the street from her mother’s house. Though their building is not perfectly maintained—the door buzzers don’t work, the screen door is broken and boarded over, and the apartment’s drop ceiling is missing tiles in several places-it’s clean. This young African American couple’s North Philadelphia neighborhood, Strawberry Mansion, was once an opulent streetcar suburb on the leafy outskirts of the city. But that was a more than a century ago. Now the neighborhood is one of the city’s poorest, and...

  7. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  8. THREE HOW DOES THE DREAM DIE?
    (pp. 71-103)

    When we first interview Jen Burke, this white seventeen-year-old and her year-and-a-half-old son are living with her stepmother and ten-yearold sister in a rowhouse just inside of Port Richmond—whichJen considers a big step up from the nearby Kensington neighborhood where she grew up. She waits for us outside a social service agency where she attends an alternative high school program for teen mothers. Jen is of average height and weight and has regular facial features. On this brisk fall day she has pulled her ash-blond hair into a ponytail and wears a kelly green sweatshirt announcing her Irish ethnicity...

  9. FOUR WHAT MARRIAGE MEANS
    (pp. 104-137)

    Deena Vallas is a lively, twenty-one-year-old, third-generation resident of the South Philadelphia neighborhood of PennsPort, a modest community of compact row homes hard hit by five decades of deindustrialization. Deena’s home is on the south end of a narrow thoroughfare known locally as Two Street, which runs from the affluent townhouses of Society Hill into the heart of what remains of the ethnic white stronghold of Philadelphia’s southeast side. On Deena’s end, Two Street is a colorful strip dotted with the private bars and practice halls of the city’s marching string bands, which, for the last 150 years, have competed...

  10. FIVE LABOR OF LOVE
    (pp. 138-167)

    Dominique Watkins is a quietly intense African American woman who wears her shoulder-length, straightened hair drawn away from her face in a twist. The thirty-four-year-old mother of three says she doesn’t mind the long bus ride from her apartment in North Philly to her job as a teacher’s aide at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in the Olney neighborhood to the north and east. After all, the trip gives her precious time with her fourteen-year-old daughter, Renee, who, with her collection of stuffed-animal keychains dangling from her backpack, still has more of the air of a lighthearted child...

  11. SIX HOW MOTHERHOOD CHANGED MY LIFE
    (pp. 168-186)

    Millie Acevedo is a diminutive, twenty-seven-year-old Puerto Rican mother of three who “came up” on Eighth and Indiana, one of the roughest corners in the West Kensington section of Philadelphia. She greets us at the door of her rowhouse with a well-scrubbed look—in a crisp white T-shirt with a face free of makeup and her hair pulled neatly back in a bun. A block and a half away, a bulldozer grinds noisily at the remains of another abandoned neighborhood factory. But Millie’s block is relatively well-maintained and peaceful. The telephone poles up and down the street are plastered with...

  12. CONCLUSION: MAKING SENSE OF SINGLE MOTHERHOOD
    (pp. 187-220)

    In September 2003 we reconnect with Mahkiya Washington, introduced in chapter 2, who still lives in the same Strawberry Mansion neighborhood but now in an apartment of her own. We meet her at her grandmother’s place, a tiny row home on one of the narrow, cramped side streets tucked between the avenues lined with grander dwellings. It has been three years since we’ve talked, and Mahkiya’s daughter Ebony, now a kindergartener at a small neighborhood charter school, bounces around the room proudly showing off her new school uniform.

    Mahkiya, her hair neatly coiffed in a bob, has a new air...

  13. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 221-224)
  14. APPENDIX A: CITY, NEIGHBORHOOD, AND FAMILY CHARACTERISTICS AND RESEARCH METHODS
    (pp. 225-240)
  15. APPENDIX B: INTERVIEW GUIDE
    (pp. 241-248)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 249-268)
  17. REFERENCES
    (pp. 269-286)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 287-293)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 294-296)