UC Davis Gets $4 Million Grant to Create Poverty Research Center

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The Division of Social Sciences at UC Davis has received $4 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a Center for Poverty Research -- one of only three such centers nationwide designated to study the causes and effects of and policies aimed at addressing poverty in the United States.

The interdisciplinary center, led by UC Davis economics professors Ann Huff Stevens and Marianne Page, will promote research and education on poverty, with an emphasis on labor markets and poverty; health and education programs; the transmission of poverty from one generation to another; and immigration's role in poverty. The grant, administered through the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, will be spread over five years, with
$800,000 distributed each year.

"We are facing some of the country's biggest challenges since the Great Depression," said George R. Mangun, dean of the Division of Social Sciences at UC Davis. "We have more people living in poverty now than at any time in almost 70 years. Yet, we have one of the most powerful economies in the world, and our country's higher education system is the envy of the entire world. With centers such as the new Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis, we can transform society."

Besides UC Davis, national poverty research centers are located at Stanford University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Being chosen to lead one of only three national poverty research centers in the country is a tremendous recognition of our faculty's intellectual capacity, and of the excellence and multidisciplinary breadth of their research," said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. "Their efforts will help to inform and guide research and public policy around this most urgent issue."

The center's research will draw on the expertise of scholars across campus and involve faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. In addition to funding research and outreach, the grant will help establish a freshman seminar in poverty to encourage students early in their college careers to consider poverty as a field of study.

"UC Davis is home to an incredibly productive group of researchers working on poverty. The center will build connections across campus that further strengthen this research, support the training of students to continue this research agenda and provide an improved structure for sharing our critical findings with other researchers, policymakers and the public," said Stevens, who chairs the Department of Economics and will direct the new center.

UC Davis was chosen because of its strength in research on poverty and related issues. Among recent findings:

    * Impacts of the Great Recession are not uniform across demographic groups -- the recession's effects have been felt most strongly by men, black and Hispanic workers, youth and undereducated workers.
    * Infant health improves when disadvantaged pregnant women have access to government assistance, such as supplemental nutrition programs or the Earned Income Tax Credit.
    * Providing information about college admission requirements to disadvantaged high school students early in their high school careers can substantially improve the odds that they apply to and enroll in college.
    * Long-term declines in real wages in the U.S. during the past several decades have made it significantly more difficult for the working poor to escape poverty.
    * In contrast to prior research, immigrants do not reduce the well-being of low-wage U.S. workers and may actually stimulate the economy.

The grant calls for the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research to fund poverty research projects at other educational institutions, as well as finance graduate and undergraduate poverty research and study.

The research of the center can help identify which anti-poverty programs work and what the long-term effects of high poverty are likely to be for future generations, Stevens said. The research will also help to inform policymakers, she added.

Stevens, who will direct the center, is chair of the economics department and has conducted extensive research on poverty and labor issues, particularly how job loss affects individuals and families. Her recent work considers the relationship among job loss, unemployment and health. The center's deputy director, Marianne Page, served from 2005 to 2010 as director of Economy, Justice and Society, an interdisciplinary program at UC Davis involving faculty in the departments of economics and sociology, and the school of education. Stevens and Page are both research associates with the National Bureau of Economic Research.

"It is critical that we study the ramifications of this country's increasing poverty so that we, as a nation, can create change for a healthier and more prosperous society," Mangun added. "This new center will provide the knowledge and understanding we need to put the next generation ahead, as our parents did for us."

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