When Shonda Roberts was a high-school senior in San Jose, California, more than twenty years ago, she learned that she was pregnant, and dropped out. She gave birth to a daughter, and, a couple of years later, another followed. When she was twenty-three, she had a son. Roberts’s mother mostly raised the girls (“A more stable place for them,” she told me), but the son, Thomas, stayed with Roberts. She needed cash to take care of her children, so she took one of the few jobs that she could get without a high-school diploma, a cashier at a local Taco Bell.