The clock never stops, as those struggling with poverty know all too well. The rent due date always looms. The punch clock keeps ticking whether or not the car starts or the babysitter quits. Mental health challenges never take holidays.
That’s why the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) and its social service sector partners and faculty affiliates continue to put in long hours to figure out “what works” to lift people out of poverty.
2021 yielded progress on a number of new and promising projects in LEO’s core focus areas and emerging issues.
- LEO partnered with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) to launch a supportive housing cohort.
- The team also moved the Criminal Justice Initiative—which emerged in response to findings from LEO’s Brief Jail Mental Health Screen study—through research design.
- LEO also began projects that will examine senior companion programs and maternity home interventions.
- LEO's first location-based cohort launched in Atlanta.
- LEO also designed projects for studying early childhood education, rapid rehousing, micro-loans, and recidivism reduction.
On the policy front, LEO's work was highlighted on the national stage several times through congressional testimony and policy proposals.
- The U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means invited LEO co-founder Jim Sullivan to testify at a subcommittee hearing. In his remarks, Sullivan advocated for building evidence and investing in what has been proven to work to lift lives up.
- Heather Reynolds, LEO's managing director, testified at a Congressional hearing on hunger in America where she advocated for solutions to hunger that are backed by evidence and that take into account the complexities of poverty.
- Drawing on work by Sullivan and LEO faculty affiliate Bruce Meyer, a federal group formed by the Chief Statistician of the United States submitted recommendations on how to measure poverty in order to give a more accurate picture of America.
- The Institute for College Access & Success unveiled a new national policy proposal aimed at unlocking potential for college students across the country that was based in part on evidence and analysis generated by LEO.
On the academy side, LEO research appeared in a number of journals and outlets.
- “Policies to Reduce and Prevent Homelessness: What We Know and Gaps in the Research" by LEO co-founder Bill Evans, LEO researcher David Phillips and Krista Ruffini appeared in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
- “Understanding Socioeconomic Disparities in Travel Behavior during the COVID-19 Pandemic” by David Phillips, LEO faculty affiliate Matthew Freedman, and Rebecca Brough was published in the Journal of Regional Science.
- “Reducing Readmissions by Addressing the Social Determinants of Health” by Bill Evans and LEO researcher Sarah Kroeger, faculty affiliates Elizabeth Munnich and Katheryn Wagner, and Grace Ortuzar appeared in the American Journal of Health Economics.
- "Landlords and Access to Opportunity" by David Phillips, Dionissi Aliprantis and Hal Martin was accepted for publication by the Journal of Urban Economics.
LEO faculty and faculty affiliates published important op-ed pieces this year.
- Bruce Meyer and Jim Sullivan authored a piece for The Hill weighing in on COVID-19 economic relief.
- LEO associate director of research operations Rachel Fulcher-Dawson and Jim Sullivan released an article with the Brookings Institution on how expanding student supports can improve community college outcomes and boost skill attainment.
- Jim Sullivan wrote an op-ed for The Hill on helping community college students succeed.
- LEO Faculty Affiliate Melissa Kearney cited LEO research in her case for federal programming to address child poverty, which was posted on MarketWatch.
Journalists also regularly turned to LEO experts and studies for insights on the latest headlines.
- The ongoing real-time poverty estimate work by Jim Sullivan and Bruce Meyer was featured in outlets including The New York Times, Washington Post, Marketplace, Politico, Fortune and Bloomberg.
- Sullivan was also interviewed by CNBC and the BBC about the launch of expanded child tax credit payments.
- A LEO study on a program aimed at keeping low-income students on track in college was featured in a Dallas Morning News story. homelessness prevention were featured in a Washington Post article on homelessness and eviction during the pandemic and a Bloomberg piece on childhood poverty featured LEO research.
In 2022, LEO is set to travel back to Atlanta for part two of the cohort research design process and will head across the country to kick off a homelessness-focused cohort in Seattle. By June 2022, it is on track to reach 96 projects—up from 31 projects in June 2019. And, September 2022 will mark 10 years since LEO became the first domestic poverty lab in the country focused on conducting randomized controlled trials.
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