Key issues of inquiry for this network include the influence of poverty on healthy transitions to adulthood, including educational attainment, labor force participation, and family formation; positive youth development strategies with disadvantaged populations; the role of policies and programs (e.g., human capital development; child welfare, including foster care and programs for youth aging out of care) in promoting successful transitions to adulthood for disadvantaged youth.
J. Michael Collins is an Associate Professor of Public Affairs and Human Ecology, as well as the Faculty Director of the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Collins studies consumer decision-making in the financial marketplace, including the role of public policy in influencing credit, savings and investment choices. His work includes the study of financial capability with a focus on low-income families. He directed the Social Security Administration Financial Literacy Research Consortium site at Wisconsin (2009–2012) and is involved in studies of mortgage foreclosure and family well-being supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, financial counseling supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and emergency savings policies for the C.S. Mott Foundation.
Carolyn Heinrich is the Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Public Policy, Education, and Economics and Co-Director of the International Education Policy and Management Program at Vanderbilt University. She is also the current President of the Association for Public Policy and Management (APPAM). Heinrich’s research focuses on education, workforce development, social welfare policy, program evaluation, and public management and performance management. She works directly with federal, state and local governments in her research to improve policy design and program effectiveness and also collaborates with nongovernmental organizations (such as the World Bank, UNICEF and others) to improve the impacts of economic and social investments in middle-income and developing countries.
Fenaba R. Addo is an Assistant Professor of Consumer Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she is also an affiliate of the Center for Financial Security, Institute for Research on Poverty, Center for Demography and Ecology, and the La Follette School of Public Affairs. Addo’s research agenda examines the role of debt and increasing wealth inequality over the past forty years within communities of color, among economically vulnerable populations in the U.S., and across the life course. Her work is interdisciplinary, drawing on theories from economics, social demography, and policy analysis.
Roy L. Austin, Jr. is a partner with the law firm of Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis LLP, where he practices trial litigation. Austin was previously Deputy Assistant to President Obama for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice and Opportunity and a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division and Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, DC.During that time, Austin co-authored a report on Big Data and Civil Rights, worked with the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, helped develop the Police Data Initiative, worked on the expansion of reentry assistance, and was a member of My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.
Don Baylor is a Senior Associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In that role, oversees many of the Foundation’s wealth and asset-building strategies. His work focuses on changing financial markets and individual behavior so that families can build assets, improve their long-term security and give their children better opportunities. Prior to joining AECF, Baylor was a senior associate at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, a director at the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) in Austin, a senior consultant for KPMG’s Government and Public Sector practice, and a legislative director for the New York chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
Sandra E. Black is a Professor of Economics and International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Previously, she held positions at University of Texas at Austin, UCLA, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She is currently a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a Research Affiliate at IZA, and a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution. She served as a Member of the Council of Economic Advisers from August 2015 to January 2017. Her research focuses on the role of early life experiences on the long-run outcomes of children, as well as issues of gender and discrimination.
Dan Bloom directs MDRC’s work on groups seeking to gain a foothold in the labor market, including former prisoners, disconnected young adults, low-income noncustodial parents (usually fathers), welfare recipients, individuals with disabilities, and others. He is currently directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Subsidized and Transitional Employment Demonstration, which is testing innovative subsidized employment models. Previous projects include the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe evaluation and evaluations of three state welfare reform initiatives in the 1990s. Bloom previously worked for America Works, a for-profit company that operates job-placement programs for welfare recipients.
Stephanie L. Canizales is an assistant professor of sociology at Texas A&M University. She specializes in international migration, inequality, poverty, and mobility; race/ethnicity, children and youth, and Latina/o sociology. Her dissertation book project, entitled Finding Home, is a study of unaccompanied minor migration and integration into U.S. society. She systematically examines why undocumented, unaccompanied Central American and Mexican youth migrate to Los Angeles, California, and how they incorporate into school, work, family, and community life as they come of age without parents. Her next project will more closely analyze youths’ experiences as labor migrants, their entry into and participation in the U.S. workforce and economy, and to further investigate the strategies youth employ to navigate poverty and mobility in a timely manner.
Kalena Cortes is an associate professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. She is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research and a Research Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), and has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and Princeton University. Her research focuses on policies relating to curriculum reform, diversity in higher education, post-secondary returns to education, and educational achievement of immigrant children in the United States. She is currently on the editorial board of the Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis and Economics of Education Review journals, and is an Associate Editor of AERA Open. She is currently serving on the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession (CSMGEP).
Shaun Dougherty is an Associate Professor of Public Policy and Education at the Peabody College of Education & Human Development, Vanderbilt University. His work focuses on applied quantitative analysis of education policies and programs, including career and technical education, with an emphasis on understanding how PreK-12 policies and programs impact student outcomes. In particular, he emphasizes how policies and practices affect educational equity related to race, class, gender, and disability. Dougherty is a former high school mathematics teacher and assistant principal. He has conducted policy research for Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Schools, and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
Roberto G. Gonzales is a Professor of Education at Harvard University Graduate School of Education. His research focuses on the factors that promote and impede the educational progress of immigrant and Latino students. Over the last decade and a half Gonzales has been engaged in critical inquiry around the important question of what happens to undocumented immigrant children as they make transitions to adolescence and young adulthood. Since 2002 he has carried out what is arguably the most comprehensive study of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
Melody Harvey is a National Poverty Fellow at the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) during the 2018–2019 academic year and is being mentored by IRP Affiliate and Associate Professor of Consumer Science J. Michael Collins. Her research interests include consumer policy, social policy, and higher education policy as they affect economically vulnerable Americans. Her work at OPRE focuses on family economic stability and research methodology. Prior to joining OPRE, she was an assistant policy researcher at RAND Corporation, where she led quantitative analyses on a program evaluation of a permanent supportive housing program and worked on projects concerning financial decision-making, working conditions, and social programs. Melody Harvey has a Ph.D. in policy analysis from the Pardee RAND Graduate School.
Waldo E. Johnson, Jr., is an Associate Professor School of Social Service Administration and Faculty Affiliate of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago. He is Principal Investigator for the Chicago Parenting Initiative Evaluation Study and he is examining the physical and mental health statuses of disconnected African American males in the South Side Health and Vitality Studies (SSHVS). Johnson is a member of the Ford Foundation Scholars Network on Masculinity and the Wellbeing of African American Males; ACF’s Welfare and Economic Self-Sufficiency Technical Working Group; 2025 Campaign for Black Men and Boys; and Co-Chair of the Illinois Juvenile Justice Research and Information Consortium, Illinois Juvenile Justice Leadership Council.
Bridget Terry Long is the Saris Professor of Education and Economics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She is an economist who specializes in the study of education, in particular the transition from high school to higher education and beyond. Her work focuses on college student access and choice and factors that influence students’ postsecondary and labor market outcomes. Current projects examine the roles of information and assistance in promoting college savings, the completion of aid applications, and college enrollment. Long is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), member of the Board of Directors for MDRC, and a Research Affiliate of the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE).
Ann Masten is Regents Professor, Irving B. Harris Professor of Child Development, and Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota. She studies competence, risk, and resilience in development with a focus on the processes leading to positive adaptation and outcomes in children and families whose lives are threatened by adversity. Masten directs the Project Competence Research on Risk and Resilience (PCR3), including studies of normative populations and high-risk young people exposed to war, natural disasters, poverty, homelessness, and migration. At the national and international level, Masten works with colleagues in multiple disciplines to understand adaptation and development, particularly in relation to migration, disasters, and war.
Jenny Nagaoka is the deputy director of the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. Nagaoka’s research interests focus on policy and practice in urban education reform, particularly developing school environments and instructional practices that promote college readiness and success. Nagaoka’s current work at the Consortium includes directing a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop frameworks and tools for the development of early warning and college readiness indicator systems, a study of the role of teachers and classroom context in developing students’ academic skills, academic mindsets, perseverance, and learning strategies, and a study of rigorous instruction in Chicago high school classrooms.
David Pate is an Associate Professor at the Helen Bader School of Social Welfare at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and an affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty and Collaborative Center of Health Equity at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His research focuses on low-income African-American men, fatherhood, and child support. In particular, Pate studies how black men are affected by the social welfare system and the challenges that impede their ability to attain economic security. His research projects involve the use of qualitative research methods to examine life course events of non-custodial African-American men. This includes their ability to be gainfully employed, engage with their children, and sustain a good quality of life.
Tom Pauken is a former member and chairman of the Texas Workforce Commission and is a businessman, lawyer, and the author of two books. He served as chairman of the Texas Republican Party from 1994 to 1997. Pauken also served in the Reagan Administration as director of the ACTION agency, now known as AmeriCorps. During his time as the Texas Workforce Commission chairman, Pauken oversaw the development of the the Texas Veterans Leadership Program (TVLP) and the Texas Back to Work program which received the Unemployment Insurance Innovation Award for Reemployment in 2010.
Clark Peters is an Associate Professor at the University of Missouri School of Social Work. His work focuses on helping vulnerable young people – especially individuals experiencing state care – successfully transition to adulthood. He also examines child welfare services and judicial oversight of dependency and delinquency cases. Dr. Peters works closely with the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative (JCYOI). He recently examined asset building for young adults aging out of foster care and is currently working on a project to assess enhancements to JCYOI’s asset-building activities. Dr. Peters has also examined and presented on increasing the level of “normalcy” of young people in state care, including providing access to drivers’ licenses, dental care, and financial education.
Jennifer Silva is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Bucknell University. As a sociologist of culture and inequality, she investigates the relationship between systems of inequality – race, social class, and gender – and systems of meaning. Her recent book, Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty (Oxford, 2013), examines how working-class young men and women navigate the transition to adulthood in a world of disappearing jobs, soaring education costs, shrinking support networks, and fragile families. Previously, Silva was a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, where she worked in the Saguaro Seminar, exploring the impact of economic insecurity on social connectedness and civic engagement.