The Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) is a university-based center for research into the causes and consequences of poverty and social inequality in the United States. It is nonprofit and nonpartisan.

The Institute was established in 1966 at the University of Wisconsin–Madison by the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, the organization given responsibility for reducing poverty in America. In the years since then, the Institute's affiliates, who represent a variety of disciplines, have formulated and tested basic theories of poverty and inequality, developed and evaluated social policy alternatives, and analyzed trends in poverty and economic well-being.

Most affiliates of the Institute hold regular teaching appointments at the university and divide their time between teaching and research. Some Institute affiliates are faculty members at other institutions who visit the Institute regularly to consult with colleagues and to present seminars. The Institute also hosts visiting scholars who, on leave from their permanent affiliation, come to IRP to conduct poverty-related research.

The principal activities of the Institute are sponsorship of the original research of its members, dissemination of their findings, and training and mentoring of future poverty researchers. Seminars, workshops, conferences, a publications program that includes print and electronic dissemination, and a challenging graduate student research training program are designed to achieve those ends.

As a university-based research institution, the Institute operates under University of Wisconsin regulations in receiving grants and disbursing funds. Grants are administered by Institute support staff. Appointments of the director and members of the Executive Committee are made by the University's College of Letters and Science. Within this framework the Institute is allowed substantial latitude in building a staff and research program.

National Poverty Research Centers

IRP is one of three National Poverty Research Centers sponsored by the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; the other two centers are the Center for Poverty Research (CPR), located at the University of California, Davis; and the Center for the Study of Poverty and Inequality (CPI) at Stanford University in California. The Poverty Research Center grants are for qualified institutions to provide a focused national, regional, and state agenda expanding our understanding of the causes, consequences, and effects of inequality and poverty and of policies and programs to remediate and alleviate poverty, inequality, and their effects.