Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xii

On December 16, 2003, activists from the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU) stage a protest outside the mayor’s office in Philadelphia’s City Hall to demand “Homes for the Holidays.” People gather at 4 p.m. and stay for several hours. Singing Christmas carols, the activists...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xviii

I am grateful to many people and institutions that helped make this study possible. I wholeheartedly thank Ilene Kalish, Caelyn Cobb, and NYU Press for believing in this project, and for their expert assistance. I thank production editor Alexia Traganas, copy editor Usha Sanyal, and...

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Introduction: Social Ties among the Poor in an Era of Unprecedented Inequality

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pp. 1-26

A married thirty-one-year-old Latina mother of one young child, struggling to get by, Betty is intensely alone. Long dark hair pulled back into a loose ponytail, large pink-tinted glasses frame her sad eyes during our interview; she lifts her glasses to wipe away tears as...

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1. Keep Working to Be What You Want: The Power of Individualism

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pp. 27-58

I meet Kim at an agency in South Philadelphia where she is enrolled in a course to help her prepare for the GED exam. A high school dropout with extensive work experience but currently unemployed, Kim is in her forties and ready for a future brighter than the past she laments. Tall and...

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2. I Stay to Myself: Avoidance of Social Ties

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pp. 59-90

Kelly, lonely and grieving the deaths of two close family members, tells me the only person she would ask for help if she needed it is her grandmother, whose health is failing; the prospect of losing her grandmother to illness in the near future compounds her sense of isolation. Her dramatic...

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3. The Only Way We’re Going to Survive: Social Ties as a Survival Strategy

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pp. 91-119

Cate came to KWRU because she was desperate, not because she had become free of the multiple reasons described in chapter 2 that lead poor people to avoid social ties. It’s possible that before she came to KWRU she did not fear that other poor people were dangerous or violent, or...

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4. What Goes around Comes Around: Reciprocity in a Poor People’s Social Network

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pp. 120-143

I meet Stefanie, a young Latina mother of two girls, when she has just walked into KWRU for the first time to get some help securing food stamps. Her long dark hair is pulled back into a smooth ponytail, revealing small gold- colored earrings. I interview her the following week. She...

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5. Our Strength Is in Our Unity: Sustainable Social Ties

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pp. 144-164

Jessie, who has been a member of KWRU for about four years, and Cate, a member for close to five years, met through KWRU, and now Cate is godmother to one of Jessie’s children, while Cate’s adult son Max is godfather to another of Jessie’s children. Jessie tells me, “I look at [Cate]...

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Conclusion: Creating Change on the Outskirts of Hope

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pp. 165-194

KWRU was founded in 1991. Over the eighteen years that followed, members engaged in countless protests and helped hundreds of individuals and families who came to the office, desperate for assistance navigating an increasingly complicated public support system. Members...

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Appendix: Research Design, Methods, and Data Analysis

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pp. 195-218

This book is based on in-depth, semi-structured interviews as well as some ethnographic participant observation. I conducted participant observation at social service programs, the KWRU office, and KWRU rallies and protests, where I recruited participants, and in the neighborhoods...

Notes

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pp. 219-254

References

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pp. 255-272

Index

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pp. 273-282

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About the Author

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p. 283

Joan Maya Mazelis is Assistant Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, and an affiliated scholar at Rutgers-Camden’s Center for Urban Research and Education.