Sociologists long have observed that the urban poor rely on kinship networks to survive economic destitution. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among evicted tenants in high-poverty neighborhoods, this article presents a new explanation for urban survival, one that emphasizes the importance of disposable ties formed between strangers. To meet their most pressing needs, evicted families often relied more on new acquaintances than on kin. Disposable ties facilitated the flow of various resources, but often bonds were brittle and fleeting. The strategy of forming, using, and burning disposable ties allowed families caught in desperate situations to make it from one day to the next, but it also bred instability and fostered misgivings among peers.
American Journal of Sociology