West Coast Poverty Center

UW’S West Coast Poverty Center Named Partner in New National Poverty Center Collaborative

The West Coast Poverty Center is among partners in a newly formed Collaborative of U.S. Poverty Centers.

The initiative is headed by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the nation’s longest-standing center for poverty research, and funded by a five-year cooperative agreement from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), the principal advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on development of policy and legislation, strategic planning, policy research and evaluation, and economic analysis.

The collaborative aims to establish a sustainable, nationwide infrastructure to facilitate the exchange of applied poverty-policy research ideas and findings among the nation’s top scholars, policymakers and practitioners. It will provide research, training, and dissemination activities focused on producing and promoting evidence to increase the effectiveness of public policies to reduce poverty and inequality and their consequences. Founding partners also include the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University, the Center on Race and Wealth at Howard University and the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research. 

The West Coast Poverty Center works to bridge gaps between anti-poverty research, practice and policy by connecting scholars, policymakers and practitioners; facilitating important social policy research; magnifying the reach of new knowledge; and fostering the next generation of anti-poverty scholars. At the UW, the center mentors and supports the next generation of poverty scholars and practitioners through its ongoing research seminar and by brokering awards and research opportunities for faculty and students. Beyond the university, the center works to bring poverty-relevant knowledge to policymakers and practitioners and to engage researchers and practitioners in dialogue through outreach, communications and events.

Founded in 2005 as an interdisciplinary effort, the center receives ongoing support from the UW School of Social Work, and its 45 faculty affiliates draw from multiple UW units including the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Public Health and the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. 

“We are pleased that the University of Washington will be part of this new national collaborative focused on creating and applying new knowledge,” said Jennifer Romich, the center’s director. “The West Coast Poverty Center is honored to support and share the work of anti-poverty scholars, practitioners and policymakers in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.”

Lawrence Berger, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty, said, “We look forward to continuing to work closely with ASPE, other federal agencies, and our CUSPC partners … in producing and using research evidence to improve the lives of Americans who are struggling to get by.” 


ARTICLE: 20 years after welfare reform, 'deep poverty' worse in Washington

WCPC center director, Jennie Romich, speaks with KUOW about what 20 years of welfare reform has meant for Washington families. While there are less poor families currently on welfare than there were 20 years ago, the number of families living in deep poverty in Washington state has gone up dramatically. Romich states, "If the concern is the financial well-being of poor families, it has not been a success. Read the article HERE.

New Research

FLASH: Perverse Politics:
The Persistence of Mass Imprisonment in the Twenty-first Century

Efforts to reduce prison time for nonviolent offenders have met with mixed success. In addition to ideological opposition to more lenient sentences, observers have pointed to other factors that may be blocking criminal justice reforms. In the August 2016 FLASH, we feature research by WCPC Affiliate Rebecca Thorpe that examines the relationship between district-level perceived economic dependence on prison infrastructure and legislators' support or resistance to sentencing reform.  Learn what she found, including how the presence of prisons in rural areas was amoung the strongest predctors of support for more punitive policies  HERE.

FLASH: Intra-year Household Income Dynamics and Adolescent Social Behavior

There is growing recognition among researchers and policymakers that income instability, and particularly frequent fluctuations in income, may have negative consequences for children and for adolescents in particular. In the December 2015 Poverty Research Flash,  we feature research by WCPC Affiliate Heather Hill and colleagues Lisa Gennetian, Sharon Wolf, and Pamela Morris that examines the relationship between intra-year household economic instability and adolescent educational outcomes, such as engagement in school, expulsions, and suspensions. Learn what they found, including how the relationships between income instability and adolescent outcomes vary by income and race, HERE.

FLASH: Racial Inequalities in Connectedness to Imprisoned Individuals in the United States

In addition to adverse consequences for individuals who are incarcerated, incarceration may negatively affect prisoners’ children and their families, as well as their close friends and neighborhoods.  Using data from the 2006 General Social Survey, WCPC Affiliate Hedwig Lee and colleagues Tyler McCormick, Margaret T. Hicken, and Christopher Wildeman produce national estimates of the number and percentage of Black and White men and women aged 18 and older who have a family member, someone they trust, an acquaintance, or a neighbor in prison. Although rates of connectedness vary across the measures and types of ties the researchers examined, a pattern emerges in which Blacks are more likely to be connected to incarcerated individuals and to have a larger share of their social networks incarcerated relative to their White counterparts. For example, 44 percent of Black women and 32 percent of Black men reported having at least one family member in prison, compared with 12 percent of White women and 6 percent of White men. Read more HERE.

DIALOGUE: Class, Race/Ethnicity, and Military Service in the Recent Wars

In this DIALOGUE, we explore the socioeconomics of recruitment and service in the military. We build on research by Washington State University Associate Professor Alair MacLean that asked whether the men who served during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan came disproportionately from minority and low-income families. In brief, Dr. MacLean found no evidence that the poor or minorities had been enlisting disproportionately during the recent wars. However, she found that individuals from families at the top of the income distribution were less likely than their peers to enlist in the years immediately following high school, suggesting a de facto “wealth exemption.” The WCPC invited five practitioners and policy experts to discuss Professor MacLean’s work and its implications. The research findings resonated with these practitioners and stimulated further discussion about socioeconomic differences, race/ethnicity, and recruitment issues in the military. Read more about this dialogue here.


Affiliate News


WCPC affiliate, Ross Matsueda, Blumstein-Jordan Professor of Sociology, CSSS faculty affiliate and founding CSSS associate director (1999-2006), has just been elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences. This is the highest academic honor awarded in our state. Many congratulations to Ross!


Research by Maria Rodriguez, a doctoral candidate at UW, is featured in the recently-released Washington State Foreclosure Mapping Report. This report on "Localizing foreclosure's impact in Washington State" offers some answers to the question of what the foreclosure crisis from 2008 to 2013 look like Zip Code by Zip Code in Washington State. Read about it here.Research by former WCPC Social Policy Research Fellow Maria Rodriguez, a UW doctoral candidate, was recently featured in the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Region 10 newsletter, HUDlines. Rodriguez's work, as part of the recently-released Washington State Foreclosure Mapping Report, examines the 2008-2013 foreclosure crisis zip code by zip code in Washington State. Read about it here.


Poverty News

Poverty and Income Inequality Increase in Washington State

After holding steady for two years, new data from the US Census Bureau show that the poverty rate in Washington state rose from 13.5% to 14.1% between 2012 and 2013. The number of Washingtonians living in poverty also rose during that period, from 915,278 people to 967,282.

Most states saw no change in their poverty rates or numbers, but New Jersey and New Mexico joined Washington as the three states with increases in both poverty rates and the number of poor people.

The new data also show that median income in Washington ($58,405) was unchanged from the year before, although a measure of income inequality in the state increased.

"This increase in the poverty rate alongside higher income inequality shows that the economic recovery has not reached many low-income Washingtonians," said Jennifer Romich, WCPC director and associate professor of social work. "The poverty rate is an indicator of how well the most vulnerable do in our economy. The overall national picture suggests that economic growth is failing to reach everyone," Romich said. Read the full WCPC press release about the new income and poverty data here.