What [the authors] found is that the moms have mainstream, even conservative ideas of what marriage should be, and they don't want to get married if they don't trust that the men will be faithful, help provide for their children, not be abusive, etc. And that these fears are quite reasonable, given the men they have to choose from.
But. The women also have mainstream, conservative ideas about the value and importance of children--so much so that they often think of abortion as irresponsible. Which is an interesting and profound realization, I think, and one that those of us who are pro-choice would do well to think very hard about. A lot of the time we argue for abortion rights as if we were doing so on behalf of poor women; we need to realize that many poor women are not themselves pro-choice, and that if we really want to advocate for them, we should start by listening to what they have to say.
The key thing the women in this book have to say is that having kids while young and poor has been good for them. According to their own account (and the author's observations), their children have given them a reason them to straighten up their lives, grow up, and become responsible adults. Their children provide a source of love for these young women, where boyfriends, peers, and parents have so often failed them. I think most of us in the middle class think it's a little fucked up to want a child for the love that child will give you (and Edin and Kefalis say this too). But at the same time, I think those of us who have had children will say that one of the most powerful and gratifying things about parenting is precisely that experience of love. It's possible that poor young women, who are often much closer to the experience of parenting than their middle-class peers by virtue of helping raise their siblings, or seeing friends have babies, are simply more realistic about the emotional benefits of parenting than the middle class is.
The one major argument we usually offer, though, for why young and/or poor women shouldn't have children, is that doing so is economically damaging: they won't get ahead if they have kids too early. It turns out that this argument isn't true. Poor women's economic prospects are demonstrably no better if they postpone childbirth than if they have children young. In fact, there's some evidence that their lives, economically and otherwise, would be worse, as kids provide them an incentive to stop using drugs, to end abusive relationships, to get jobs, and to further their educations. Setting an example for their children, or improving their situations for their children's sake, proves to be a much more powerful motivator than doing so for themselves.
Now, I understand that some folks really don't care what happens to women once they get married, so long as the ring gets on the finger. But for the rest of us, this offers an interesting twist to the tired cliches about unwed mothers in the inner cities. It seems that these Black women aren't opposed to marriage, per se, they just have high standards about who they're want to marry in the first place. Men who are responsible, hard-working, caring, not abusive. Things everybody deserves in a spouse. Lecturing them about the evils of not being married when they have a kid, when the immediate option to marry might not be to the most attractive candidate, is both patronizing and misguided.