National Poverty Research Center | Additional Research

The Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is dedicated to advancing understanding of the causes and consequences of U.S. poverty and inequality. It collects and analyzes information, continually updated from state and national data and special-purpose studies, on the evolving condition of low-income individuals and families and policies and programs to improve their well-being and increase self-sufficiency.

Having operated since 1966, IRP has built a cumulative program of interdisciplinary research, collaborating with and supporting a corps of some 200 research Affiliates comprising leading scholars in Economics, Sociology, Public Affairs, Public Health, Political Science, Law, Business, Social Work, and other disciplines, at UW–Madison and institutions across the nation.

IRP Quick Facts: 2016
Year Founded: 1966
Conferences: 54
Summer Research Workshops: 26
Teaching Poverty Workshop Attendees: 60
Visiting Scholars from Underrepresented Groups: 54
Graduate Research Fellows: 345
Dissertation Fellowships: 18
Poverty-Related Doctorates: 738
Seed Grants: 49

The work of these researchers has created a well-rounded understanding of the issues, documenting that individual and family characteristics and circumstances—along with structural, social, and institutional forces—interact to generate poverty and inequality, which are themselves linked to well-being throughout the life course.

These findings build on the knowledge base that maps a way forward through development of evidence-based antipoverty public policies.

National Poverty Research Center

As the national Poverty Research Center, IRP coordinates a formal network of poverty centers, the U.S. Collaborative of Poverty Centers (CPC), which combines resources to create a sustainable, nationwide infrastructure that facilitates the exchange of applied poverty-policy research and findings among researchers, policymakers, and policy practitioners.

These themes help guide IRP's Center research, training, and dissemination activities, noted below. However, IRP's research program is much broader and more extensive, addressing national, state, and sub-state issues in policy-relevant ways.




Additional Research Activities

IRP leverages ASPE funding to gain support from a variety of public and private entities for meetings, conferences, graduate student research assistants, data collection, programmers, publications, and course-release time for faculty principal investigators in ways that complement IRP's Poverty Research Center activities.

These entities include the University of Wisconsin–Madison, UW–Madison Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Science Foundation, Smith Richardson Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Kellogg Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts, Buffett Foundation, W. T. Grant Foundation, Ford Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, David and Lucille Packard Foundation, and Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Selected examples of research supported by these and other organizations include:

  • Wisconsin Study of Family Complexity and Public Policy to develop new innovative methods for capturing in real time the complexity of families today and use these methods to examine how well our current safety net policies are aligned with the reality of the families that these policies were designed to help.
  • Study of the Association of Child Poverty, Brain Development, and Academic Achievement, which revealed for the first time the mechanism behind the well-established findings that brain development delays in children growing up in poverty explain the academic achievement deficit in poor children.
  • A rigorous evaluation of the National Child Support Noncustodial Parent Employment Demonstration (CSPED), designed to identify effective policy alternatives to increase the regular payment of child support.
  • Wisconsin Poverty Project to gain a more accurate and timely assessment of poverty throughout the state, and thereby inform public policy, through development of the Wisconsin Poverty Measure, and to serve as a model for other states and localities seeking to craft their own more meaningful measures of poverty.