- Advanced Materials by Design: Theory and Computation
- African Diaspora and the Atlantic World Research Circle
- American Indian Studies
- Biomedical Engineering
- Chemical Biology
- Cognitive Sciences
- Communication Technologies Research
- Comparative Political Economy
- Comparative U.S. Studies
- Computational Sciences
- Computational Systems Biology
- Computer Engineering
- Computer Sciences
- Cultural Studies in a Global Context
- Disability Studies
- Energy Sources and Policy
- Expressive Culture and Diversity in the Upper Midwest
- Food Pathogens and Toxins
- Functional Brain Imaging
- Functional Organic Materials
- Global Governance and International Finance
- Initiative for Studies in Transformational Entrepreneurship
- Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program
- International Environmental Affairs and Global Security
- International Public Affairs
- Land Use
- Law, Society and Justice
- Mathematical Physics - String Theory
- Middle Eastern Studies
- Molecular Biometry
- Nanophase Inorganic Materials and Devices
- Political Economy
- Poverty Studies
- Religious Studies
- Science and Technology Studies
- Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine
- Structural Biology
- Translational Research - Neurodegenerative Diseases
- Very High Energy Astrophysics and Cosmology
- Visual Culture
- Vitamin D
- Women's Health Research/Biology of Sex and Gender Differences
- Zebrafish Biology
This cluster is integrated into the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP), a national policy research institute that has been at UW–Madison for almost a half-century, serving as the nation’s original center for poverty-related interdisciplinary research, mentoring, and dissemination. The federal government has provided core funding for IRP’s work since it entered into an agreement with UW–Madison in March 1966.
The future of poverty studies rests with organizations that can bring cross-disciplinary, methodologically diverse perspectives to understanding the problems confronting low-income populations. IRP’s vision combines the focus on the effects of poverty and programs to address poverty characteristic of several social science fields with an understanding of the political and social forces affecting poverty policy. Combining the insights from several disparate methodological approaches, particularly in an environment where researchers are interacting in seminars and work in proximity to one another, has enhanced understanding far beyond what would have been achieved without the dialogue between researchers with different interests and training. These faculty help ensure that UW–Madison remains a national leader in poverty studies.
Equally important to the success of poverty studies are cluster initiatives that foster interaction and collaboration between researchers and policymakers and practitioners, thus informing public policy with high-quality research and broadening researchers’ understanding of policymakers’ needs and the practical application of their findings. Today, the need for nonpartisan, research-based evidence and real-world solutions is great. Twenty-two percent of U.S. children (17 percent of Wisconsin children) are being raised in poverty, and opportunities to earn a family-supporting income and get ahead are declining. These changes demand a broader conceptualization of poverty and thus offer new possibilities for UW–Madison scholars to influence conceptions of the causes and consequences of poverty and to design new strategies to fight it.
IRP was one of three competitors to win a prestigious five-year National Poverty Research Center award from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in fall 2011. The core group that prepared the successful proposal included all of the cluster members.
In a recent five-year period, Poverty Studies Cluster faculty were awarded a total of 38 grants totaling more than $17,340,000.
Since the Cluster’s formation in 2002, Cluster faculty have hosted/participated in 15 IRP conferences, seven of which resulted in edited volumes, and all of which were summarized in IRP’s broad-audience publications, Focus and Fast Focus. The meetings convened top researchers from across campus and around the nation, and in many cases included policymakers and practitioners. Topics have included: employment prospects for low-wage workers; young disadvantaged men as fathers; how poverty affects child health and well-being, which brought brain researchers together with social scientists; and the take-up of social benefits.
In the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, a cluster member worked with a team of IRP researchers and programmers to develop a new way to gauge the effectiveness of public programs and assess unmet need throughout Wisconsin that is more accurate and timely than federal statistics. Results are published each year in Wisconsin Poverty Reports.
Cluster members are heading IRP’s Cross-Poverty-Research-Center Network, which combines input from the other two ASPE-supported centers (at Stanford University and University of California, Davis), the centers’ advisory committee, and other poverty researchers to inform IRP’s major research projects and increase the coordination of project activities with those of the other Poverty Research Centers.
IRP’s Graduate Research Fellows Program is directed by a cluster member. The initiative is a unique and rigorous interdisciplinary research training program for Ph.D. students in a broad range of disciplines, including business, consumer science, developmental psychology, economics, education, public affairs, sociology, and social work. Forty students participate each year in this highly regarded and competitive program that prepares the next generation of poverty studies scholars.
Several research projects that will describe associations between poverty, SES, or income and children’s later outcomes are underway by a cluster member. These projects span a range of methodological and disciplinary perspectives. For example, a cluster member is working with a Brookings colleague to develop a microsimulation model of social mobility from early childhood to adulthood, with the goal of identifying the ingredients that explain how low-income children become “middle class by middle age.” Another example is a study to further understanding of the ways in which preschool, the home environment, and school function as the determinants of the impacts of Head Start programs.
A cluster member is among the interdisciplinary scholars with research and evaluation expertise from across the United States who are serving on the National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation, an effort to identify the key components of policies and programs that effectively improve the life chances of low-income children.
Closer to home, a cluster member is studying quality improvement initiatives for existing home visiting services in Milwaukee and child care assistance programs across Wisconsin.
The effects of the Great Recession and its aftermath on poverty and inequality are a central focus of a cluster member, whose research includes a study mining new and unique datasets to assess the effects of income support payments on family residential stability in the face of falling housing prices and long-term joblessness.
- Cluster and other poverty researchers are working with the Wisconsin Bureau of Child Support on a broad range of issues, including the role of child support in the economic safety net of low-income families; the Milwaukee Prison Project, which examines the effects of a policy that temporarily reduces child support orders for incarcerated noncustodial parents; study of the causes and consequences of multiple-partner fertility; collaboration with child support and W-2 cash assistance staff to enhance policy knowledge and improve child and family well-being; provision of technical support as well as document design and implementation lessons for a child support payment incentive program; analysis of referrals to child support by child welfare caseworkers; and work with the Bureau of Child Support to analyze guidelines.
The cluster is part of the larger UW–Madison Institute for Research on Poverty, which consists of about 80 formal faculty affiliates representing a variety of disciplines, including economics, sociology, social work, public policy, political science, human ecology, developmental psychology, educational policy studies, rural sociology, population health sciences and law. The faculty members offer numerous courses each semester related to poverty. Two cluster faculty members also serve on the Institute Executive Committee. All cluster faculty receive research support from the IRP core grant and participate in the intellectual life of the IRP research community. They have also presented their research in the weekly seminar series organized by the Institute.
Cluster coordinator, faculty and lead dean
- Tim Smeeding, Director, Institute for Research on Poverty, and Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences, La Follette School of Public Affairs
Katherine Magnuson, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Vilas Associates Scholar, and IRP Associate Director of Research and Training
- Gary Sandefur, Dean, College of Letters and Science