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UW–Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty wins five-year national grant

September 30, 2011

The Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison was awarded a five-year national Poverty Research Center grant by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The award supports the institute in its research, training and dissemination agenda for studying the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality and evaluating antipoverty policies and programs. It comes on the heels of a U.S. Census Bureau report that the number of Americans living below the official poverty line is the highest in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.

“We are grateful for this vote of confidence in our work and look forward to working with ASPE and the other poverty centers to explain the lives of the poor, and hopefully improve policy and practice to help them better their life situation,” says Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) and Arts and Sciences Distinguished Professor of the La Follette School of Public Affairs.

IRP’s work will be undertaken in conjunction with Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Sherry Glied and colleagues and with the other poverty research centers at Stanford University and the University of California, Davis. Under the agreement, IRP will continue to combine national and Wisconsin research perspectives.

The award comes under a reconfigured national poverty center program, which ASPE modified in response to recent changes in the economy and the challenges faced by low-income individuals and families.

IRP’s proposal addresses these changes, builds on the institute’s well-established infrastructure, and highlights the generous support of UW–Madison and other state and private funders that amplify ASPE support.

IRP’s multidisciplinary research agenda centers on the following three topical themes:

  • Economic Self-Sufficiency: examination of factors affecting employment and wage growth, the role of the work-based safety net in reducing poverty and the role of financial literacy in self-sufficiency;
  • Family Change and Poverty: focusing on the relationship of family complexity to poverty and public policy and on the relationships among child maltreatment, parental income and subsequent economic outcomes; and
  • Intergenerational Transmission of Poverty: studying how poverty and inequality affect children and youth, the social and biological processes behind the intergenerational transmission of poverty, and effective policies and programs to reduce it.

IRP will sponsor research, national conferences and workshops, and a related seminar series addressing each of these themes. The themes were selected because they reflect issues of emerging importance to national and state policymakers and researchers that are not well understood.

To carry out its mission, IRP draws on a distinguished multidisciplinary faculty of 160 scholars from across the UW–Madison campus and the nation. These poverty researchers have expertise in such areas as child support policy; federal, state and local poverty measures; complex families; child well-being; assessment of antipoverty programs (e.g., tax credits, unemployment insurance, Medicaid); and food assistance programs.

In the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, the grant will help IRP maintain and expand its strong bridges with policymakers and practitioners in governmental and nongovernmental settings, including nonprofit organizations. In this troubling economic climate, IRP will continue its long tradition of working with government officials and organizations of public policymakers and practitioners to ensure that its mission and focus remain relevant to those most in need.