Maria Kefalas, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice

Areas Taught: Criminal Justice, Sociology

Expertise: Urban Communities, Violence, The Working Class, Family and Marriage

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Understanding Working Class Communities and Volatile Urban Environments

Whether it be immersing herself in the lives of working class Americans or trying to reason why single, low-income women continue to bear children they cannot afford, Maria Kefalas, Ph.D., learns by engaging with the people and places she studies.

Author of Working Class Heroes: Protecting Home, Community and Nation in a Chicago Neighborhood and co-author of Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage, Dr. Kefalas also studies transitions to adulthood and violence in cities. She directs the University's Institute for Violence Research and Prevention and serves as an associate member of the MacArthur Foundation's Transitions to Adulthood Network, a national study examining how a diverse group of young adults navigate the transition from adolescence into adulthood.

A result of ethnographic research conducted over five years in a Chicago neighborhood, her first book, Working Class Heroes, explores race, patriotism, home and motherhood, and how each defines — and is defined — by the people studied.

Her second book, Promises I Can Keep, written in conjunction with sociologist Kathryn Edin, Ph.D., dispels myths held by the middle and upper class that marriage has lost its meaning in low-income communities, and seeks to identify the real reasons for this growing trend.

Most recently, Dr. Kefalas has commented to the media on the rise of violence in Philadelphia and what policymakers can do to stop the alarming trend.

"To be frank, the blame does not lie completely in the hands of the politicians," she admits. "Academics need to present their work in a way that makes sense to real people. If our work cannot transform the lives of people for the better, then really, what's the point?"

Dr. Kefalas received her master's degree and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago, and her bachelor's degree in economics from Wellesley College.