University of Wisconsin–Madison

National Poverty Fellows Program Position Description for 2021–2022

The National Poverty Fellows in residence at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in Washington, D.C., will work in the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) and will be assigned to the Division of Economic Independence (DEI).

OPRE conducts rigorous research and evaluation projects related to ACF programs and the populations they serve. These include evaluations of existing programs, evaluations of innovative approaches to helping low-income children and families, research syntheses, and descriptive and exploratory studies. OPRE also supports rigorous research and data-driven decision making in ACF program offices by increasing the quality, usefulness, sharing, and analysis of data while protecting privacy and confidentiality.

OPRE and DEI family self-sufficiency research is designed to expand knowledge about effective programs to promote economic well-being among low-income families and focuses on:

  • Employment, focusing on both occupational skills training and psycho-social/behavioral well-being and obstacles to employment.
  • Safety net topics more broadly, i.e., some familiarity with the issues surrounding the policy research on safety net programs would be useful, e.g., SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, housing, and their interactions.
  • Health and well-being issues related to employment/unemployment.
  • Family financial stability.

Current examples of ongoing projects include:

  • experimental impact and implementation evaluations of post-secondary education, career pathways education, and employment programs;
  • experimental impact evaluations of job search approaches and subsidized and transitional employment interventions;
  • tests of coaching and case management approaches for very low income individuals seeking training and employment;
  • qualitative inquiries into the organizational culture of TANF offices and children’s experiences in public assistance systems;
  • an analysis of racial disparities among populations in human services focused on ACF populations.
  • Evaluations of approaches to determine the effectiveness of services aimed at serious barriers to employment such as substance use disorders and mental health issues.

In addition, second generation inquiry and testing is underway on the application of behavioral economics to social service delivery, in particular in TANF and child welfare systems contexts among others. A companion project synthesized the literature around self-regulation and goal directed case management approaches to inform further research and testing in related program applications. The Division of Economic Independence also works closely with other OPRE research divisions and the DHHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation to collaborate on research on two-generation program models, questions surrounding populations re-entering the community after incarceration, child support systems policy research, and integration of refugee populations into the labor market.

Fellows in residence in OPRE/DEI will participate in a variety of research and program evaluation efforts and will be expected to:

  • Assist Federal staff in overseeing research and evaluation contracts related to ACF’s programmatic research initiatives. Assist Federal staff in preparing research and evaluation project specifications, reviewing survey instruments and sampling plans, and critiquing reports.
  • Assist Federal staff in planning research consortia and other topical forum activities, such as OPRE’s series on social science research methodology.
  • Provide technical assistance to ACF Program Office partners with various needs, including research and evaluation design, performance measurement, and data sharing, documentation, management, and analysis.
  • Identify key research and evaluation questions to address policy and programmatic priorities through reviews of the current academic and applied literature. Assist in the formulation of recommendations to Agency officials about further social science data, research, and policy analysis needs.
  • Prepare and write position papers, issue summaries, comments, briefing documents, and fact sheets related to data, research findings, and program operations.
  • Analyze and prepare written summaries or comments on ACF program data including, administrative data, national survey data sources, and research reports.
  • Propose topics for individual research related to ACF priorities and the Fellow’s research interests.