University of Wisconsin–Madison
Fast Focus Research/Policy Brief Icon

American poverty and inequality: Key trends and future research directions

  • Timothy Smeeding, Maria Cancian, John Karl Scholz, Barbara Wolfe, Robert Haveman, Jennifer Noyes, Katherine Magnuson, Carolyn Heinrich, Thomas Kaplan, Lawrence M. Berger, Marcia Carlson, J. Michael Collins, Julia Isaacs, Daniel R. Meyer, and James Walker
  • October 2011
  • FF12-2011
  • Link to FF12-2011 (PDF)

This issue of Fast Focus summarizes the research agenda of the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison under a new, five-year national Poverty Research Center grant from the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The award is one of three made in ASPE’s reconfigured poverty center program that is designed to combat poverty and inequality in the 21st century (Stanford University and the University of California, Davis host the other two new centers). In receiving the award, IRP will continue the work it has pursued since 1966, when it was established as the nation’s original, university-based center for research into the nature, causes, and cures of poverty and inequality in the United States. Central to the mission of the poverty research center program is capacity-building—supporting faculty research and faculty training; mentoring students; and enhancing awareness of issues related to poverty and inequality through dissemination of research findings to a range of audiences. The new program features formalized cross-poverty-center networks and a centralized advisory committee that oversees all three centers in collaboration with ASPE analysts. In this brief, IRP researchers assess poverty and inequality in the United States. They examine key trends over the decades since the War on Poverty was launched in the 1960s, review past research, and look ahead to how poverty may continue to change and require new approaches to mitigate its effects on individuals and families. They evaluate the policies and programs devised to improve opportunities for the disadvantaged and to help them on the path to self-sufficiency. Finally, they look ahead to project what researchers, policymakers, and practitioners will need to know to improve the life chances of all Americans and what research evidence is needed to inform and improve antipoverty efforts.


Economic Support, Financial Security, Inequality & Mobility