2018: Rethinking Welfare: Promoting Opportunity and Independence

Annual Poverty Research and Policy Forum

September 25, 2018 

Holiday Inn Washington-Capital
550 C Street, SW
Washington, DC

Convened by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis, and the National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics (NAWRS) in conjunction with the U.S. Collaborative of Poverty Centers

Supported by the Office of Human Services Policy, Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


8:30–8:45 Welcome/Overview of Forum Goals
Lonnie Berger, Institute for Research on Poverty
Steve Wagner
, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Marianne Page, University of California, Davis
Kate Probert, National Association of Welfare Research and Statistics and Ramsey County Workforce Solutions
8:45–9:15 Keynote: Balancing Local Flexibility and Accountability While Targeting Benefits to Intended Recipients
Don Winstead, Winstead Consulting
9:15–10:30 Panel 1: How Can We Increase Economic Independence through Employment and Work?
Moderator: Camille Busette, Brookings Institution
Bradley Hardy, American University Powerpoint
Carolyn Heinrich, Vanderbilt University Powerpoint
Manasi Deshpande, University of Chicago Powerpoint
10:30–10:45 Break
10:45–12:00 p.m. Panel 2: How Can We Improve Family Economic Stability and Well-Being through Promoting Strong Social Relationships Including Marriage?
Moderator: Brad Wilcox, University of Virginia
Jennifer Silva
, Bucknell University 
Scott Winship
, U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee Powerpoint
Haydar Kurban, Howard University Powerpoint
12:00–1:00 Lunch
1:00–2:15 Panel 3: How Do We Target Safety Net Programs to Promote Intergenerational Economic Mobility?
Moderator: Letitia Logan Passarella, University of Maryland
Marianne Page, University of California, Davis Powerpoint
Marianne Bitler, University of California, Davis Powerpoint
Elizabeth Cascio, Dartmouth College
2:15–2:30 Break
2:30–3:45 Panel 4: Onward!: Developing an Agenda for Policy, Practice, and Research
Moderator: Lonnie Berger, Institute for Research on Poverty
Isabel Sawhill
, Brookings Institution
Robert Doar, American Enterprise Institute
Brad Wassink, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families
Kara Odom Walker, Delaware Department of Health and Social Services
Clarence Carter, Office of Family Assistance, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
3:45–4:00 Closing Remarks
Brenda Destro, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
4:00 Adjournment

Overall Aim

The Annual Poverty Research and Policy Forum is designed to broadly disseminate rigorous research, with an emphasis on the implications for poverty policy. This year’s forum focuses on current research findings regarding key mechanisms for promoting employment, economic mobility, and strong social networks to increase independence and well-being among families. Its aim is to inform the development of poverty policy and research through a discussion of:

  • Research evidence on policies and programs that:
    • increase economic independence through work;
    • improve economic stability and well-being by encouraging strong social relationships, including marriage; and
    • promote intergenerational mobility;
  • Initiatives that successfully promote economic independence, strong social networks as a way of sustainably escaping poverty, and/or intergenerational economic mobility, and their implications for policy and practice;
  • How to balance the twin goals of state-level flexibility and accountability; and
  • Implications of the research shared for the development of a research agenda designed to address gaps in our knowledge about key policy levers for promoting employment, financial independence, stability, and mobility.


The U.S. Welfare System includes a range of policy and practice initiatives that are intended to promote economic independence, stability, and mobility through a variety of mechanisms. Many of these initiatives have been rigorously evaluated.

The 2018 Poverty Research and Policy Forum will bring together scholars and federal, state, and local policymakers, and practitioners to present and discuss policies and programs that successfully provide opportunities for work and equip participants with the skills necessary to obtain employment and financially support themselves and their families in today’s economy.

Presentations and discussion will focus on key policy levers underlying successful initiatives and on how federal policy is implemented at the state level. The goal is to inform future policy, programmatic, and research efforts and agendas for increasing self-sufficiency and economic well-being for low-income Americans, and identifying areas where additional evidence is needed.