Research Topics at the NPC

Our research agenda

The last decade has been a time of great change for low-income families in the United States. Fundamental modifications in policy have occurred, including reforms in welfare policy, expansions in public health insurance, changes in tax policy for low-income workers, and expanded work-support policies, such as child care subsidies.

Significant economic changes interacted with these policy changes, with low unemployment rates and improved real wages for less-skilled workers during the last half of the 1990s.

Taken together, these policy and economic changes led to dramatic behavioral changes, including large drops in welfare usage and large increases in work among single mothers. At 11.3 percent, the official poverty rate in 2000 is nearly as low as it was in the early 1970s. And if a broader definition of poverty is adopted, the inclusion of in-kind benefits and the earned income tax credit shows a lower poverty rate in 2000 than in 1973.

The agenda of key research questions relating to the causes and consequences of poverty continues to evolve, as we learn more about the impact of recent policy changes, as we learn more about how the economic environment for less-educated workers improves or deteriorates, and as we learn more about the family and community environment of low-income families.

We are particularly interested in studying conditions in the “aftermath of welfare reform,” that is, questions about policy design, implementation, and effects relating to recent major changes in programs for low-income families.

Addressing the broad poverty research agenda of the next decade requires a large and diverse collaboration among economists, sociologists, demographers, developmental psychologists, medical researchers, urban planners, public health and social work researchers, and political scientists.

We will pursue six broad research themes: