2012–2013 Emerging Scholars Grants Focal Theme & Questions of Interest:
Family Complexity, Poverty, and Inequality

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The 2012 Emerging Scholars competition sought proposals for research that will enhance our understanding of the relationship of family complexity to poverty and public policy, one of three integrated research themes shaping IRP's research agenda as a National Poverty Research Center. Solicitation for Emerging Scholars Grant Program proposals took place in January 2012 with a March 1, 2012, deadline. View the 2012–2013 Request for Proposals (PDF). University of Wisconsin–Madison scholars and IRP affiliates Marcia (Marcy) Carlson, Associate Professor of Sociology and affiliate of the Center for Demography and Ecology, and Daniel R. Meyer, Mary C. Jacoby Distinguished Professor of School of Social Work, are directing the program.

Since the declaration of the War on Poverty more than 40 years ago, family life in the United States has changed drastically. One of the most important demographic changes over the past 50 years has been an increase in family complexity, owing to high rates of cohabitation, nonmarital childbearing, divorce, and repartnering. Particularly notable is an increase in multi-partner fertility, the proportion of adults who have biological children by more than one partner.

Another notable family trend is the persistence and prevalence of child maltreatment. These changes and trends in family life are important for understanding both the causes and consequences of poverty. As the reach and effects of many antipoverty policies vary with family structure, changes in family life pose challenges to the effective design of antipoverty programs and policies.

As a result of these trends and challenges, IRP invited research proposals that were responsive to one of the following two questions:

  • How do family change and increasing family complexity relate to poverty or inequality?
  • How do family change and increasing family complexity create challenges for public policy, and what is the evidence that social policies increase (or attenuate) family complexity or its consequences?

IRP evaluated proposals in collaboration with affiliated scholars and ASPE staff, and awarded funding to five projects with a maximum award of $20,000 each. The awards run from May 1, 2012, through August 2013. Throughout the award period, grantees will benefit from consultation with IRP senior affiliates, with each other, and—during a workshop at which grantees will present their draft paper—with other senior poverty scholars. Award notification was made on April 13, 2012.