Aug. 15, 1996
Vol. 16, No. 1

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    Joint center on poverty established

    University of Chicago researchers and colleagues at Northwestern have received a $7.5 million federal grant to establish the Joint Center for Poverty Research.

    Robert Michael, the Eliakim Hastings Moore Distinguished Service Professor in the Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, has been named deputy director of the center. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

    The Joint Center for Poverty Research will study the causes of poverty in America and the effectiveness of policies to reduce it, with a special emphasis on innovations in welfare reform and poverty policy at the state level around the country.

    The center will also train graduate students at the two universities in poverty-related research and will fund regular policy briefings around the nation. Some of the topics center scholars will pursue are the changing labor market, family functioning and the well-being of children, teenage pregnancy and initiatives to replace welfare recipiency with work. Rebecca Blank, professor of economics at Northwestern, is the center's director.

    "The University of Chicago has long been committed to basic social-science research, and the center's focus on the study of urgent policy problems is a natural complement to our work," Michael said.

    Michael explained that the current debate about poverty and the emergence of the underclass "highlights the importance of understanding the differences between correlation and causation and of building a body of solid empirical evidence about the impact of different social phenomena on one another. To be useful, such a body of evidence needs to provide a sense of how much additional family income would reduce various social problems and how much reducing these social problems would raise income."

    Michael's own work has explored methods of measuring poverty as well as the effects of family and social policy on the healthy development of children from birth to age 13 in the United States and the United Kingdom.

    Joining Michael in studying the issue of poverty will be scholars from the Harris School and the departments of Sociology and Economics, as well as other areas of the University.