Aided by over 30 research associates,rnsociologist Kathryn Edin and anthropologistrnLaura Lein inter’iewed 214 singlernwelfare mothers and 165 poor, workingrnsingle mothers in Chicago, Boston, SanrnAntonio, and Charleston. The authorsrnseek to undermine welfare reform by offeringrna rationale for congressional andrn”nonprofit” forces looking to cushion thernshocks welfare mothers will feel uponrnentering the world of work.rnMost of the mothers interviewed derivedrntheir income from boyfriends, theirrnchildren’s fathers, relatives, off-the-booksrnjobs (e.g., babysitting), selling stolenrngoods, prostitution, or drug dealing. Despiternthe unreported income, these uneducated,rnunskilled women—whether onrnwelfare or working at “dead-end” jobs—rnwere barely treading water. The authorsrnREADERSrns/irnyou havernliiends or relativesrnwho might enjoyrnChronicles,rnplease send us theirrnnames andrnaddresses.rnWe would bernpleased to sendrnthem arncomplimentaryrnissue!rnreport that single working mothers nowrnhave more cash but suffer greater materialrnhardship than their nonworking counterparts.rnWorking mothers must pay forrnadditional transportation and medicalrnand childcare that welfare mothers receivernfree. Edin and Lein thus concludernthat poor women are v’orse off workingrnthan being on welfare. To my knowledge,rnthe authors’ data are generallyrnsoimd, though most of their “discoveries”rnare old hat to the over 50 millionrnAmericans who have lived in, worked in,rnor regularly visited slums.rnEdin and Lein tend to exaggerate therndifficulty of finding affordable childcarernand adequate transportation. Although arnrespondent told of getting babysitting servicesrnfrom a welfare mother for a bag orrntwo of groceries per month, the authorsrninvoke a mythical, “market-rate” childcare.rnAs New York University politicalrnscientist Lawrence M. Mead noted inrnThe New Politics ofPoverh’ (1992), and asrnJencks corroborates, poor v’orking mothersrnare able to negotiate affordable, unlicensedrnchildcare without inflationarvrngovernment “service-providers.” Thernsupposed lack of childcare is a rehearsedrnanswer that mothers give to reassure thernwhite, suburban “Suzv the social worker”rntypes: “I really want to work, b u t . . . “rnEdin and Lein alternate between thernrole of “Suzies” and that of dogged interviewers.rnThey reinterview respondentsrnwho initially gave unrealistic budgets, orrnambiguous or misleading answers aboutrnreceiving child support or engaging inrnprostitution. The pervasiveness of suchrnprostitution matches my own observationsrnin New York; that of unreportedrnchild support surprised me. However,rnwhen it comes to the mothers’ rationalizationsrnfor not working, it’s Suzy timernagain. On the one hand, the authors emphasizernthe mothers’ concern for avoidingrncriminal activity; on the other, theyrnchronicle the mothers’ involvement inrnprostitution and other crimes.rnThe authors’ commissions and omissionsrnderive from their loyalties. Edinrnand Lein gained access to their respondentsrnonly through the intercession ofrn”community groups” with a vested interestrnin the normalization of failure. Consideringrntheir fealty to such groups, thernauthors’ findings are remarkably credible.rnYet loyalty precludes Edin and Leinrnfrom explaining why so many childrenrngrow up fatherless, poor, and dependent.rnAs Fred Siegel and Jim Sleeper havernrecalled, during the 1960’s the MarxistrnNational Welfare Rights Organizationrnsought to bankrupt New York and precipitaterna revolution to be fought by thernnew proletariat of black welfare clients.rnLiberal Republican Mayor John V.rnLindsay’s Marxist social services commissioner,rnMitchell “Come and GetrnIt” Ginsberg, deliberately expandedrnthe welfare rolls from 538,000 to 1.65rnmillion recipients between 1966 andrn1971—an action that precipitated notrnrevolution but moral collapse among therncity’s poor. ^rnEdin and Lein implicitly define a familyrnas an unwed mother and child(ren),rnyet are shocked to see such “families”rnmired in poverty’. Unquestioningly acceptingrnthe feminist wisdom about arnwoman needing a man as a fish needs arnbicycle, the authors’ response to welfare’srncrushing consequences for poor womenrnis yet more socialism. Men are fatallyrnflawed, yet the state is somehow perfect.rnA similar myopia causes the authors tornconfuse cause and effect. It is life inrn”some of the countr”s most dangerousrnneighborhoods” that drives concernedrnmothers to opt for the dole over leavingrntheir children unsupervised while theyrnwork. But in Why Nothing Worksrn(1987), Marvin Harris observed that welfarernmothers’ sons help support theirrnmothers and girlfriends through drugrndealing, muggings, and burglaries. Harrisrnexplained that welfare clients raisedrntheir sons to be violent, the better to protectrnthem from other clients’ sons.rnHence, poor young black and Hispanicrnmen —and increasingly women —embracerncrime in response not to whiternracism or lack of opportunity but to theirrnrearing.rnLife on the dole is miserable. However,rnthe authors ignore the role of governmentrnprograms in inflating the cost of living,rnfurther reducing the buying powerrnof the working poor and encouragingrnthose who ref.ise to work. Edin and Leinrnhave targeted readers blissfully unawarernof the tens of millions of American familiesrnwho escape poverty’ through limitingrntheir wants, working extra hours or twornjobs, and sharing responsibilities. Thernauthors, who see in welfare reform merelyrnthe desire to “punish” unwed mothers,rnare blind to the connection between welfarernclients and the rise in violent crimernand in drug and child abuse. The solutionrnis marriage.rnNicholas Stix is a freelance writer inrnNew York.rn28/CHRONiCLESrnrnrn