U-M’s Poverty Solutions marks impact of action-based research in 2022
By Lauren Slagter
ANN ARBOR – From informing the way the U.S. Census estimates populations to reimagining land contracts as a path to homeownership and inspiring state legislation that would aid youth experiencing homelessness, Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan continued to tackle the structures of poverty through action-based research in 2022.
“Each day, we partner with communities and policymakers to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty and empower families to live healthy and productive lives,” said H. Luke Shaefer, founding faculty director of Poverty Solutions, the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy, and a professor of social work.
The university-wide, interdisciplinary initiative worked with 158 faculty affiliates spanning U-M’s three campuses and 65 student research assistants representing 10 academic departments last year. Poverty Solutions’ annual impact report, released this week, highlights key areas of impact, including:
- Conducting an independent audit of Detroit’s 2020 Census population estimates, which found evidence of an undercount. In response to the findings, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters proposed broadening the scope of data allowable in challenging Census population estimates to make it easier for cities to submit high-quality administrative data and other sources;
- Providing foundational analysis that informed a $13 million investment in the Detroit Eviction Fund to help implement Detroit’s new Right to Counsel ordinance;
- Informing legislative efforts in Michigan and Maryland to promote supportive land contracts as a path to homeownership with regulations that guard against predatory contracts for people with limited access to mortgages and traditional credit;
- Inspiring a package of bills in Michigan that will make it easier for youth experiencing homelessness to access health care; and
- Recommending ways for Washtenaw County to maximize long-term impact and promote equity with one-time spending of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
“We look to local leaders when setting our research agenda, which often takes our work in exciting and unexpected directions. We want to be responsive to community needs and play a role in bringing research, analysis, and evaluation to the table,” said Mara Ostfeld, associate faculty director and communications director at Poverty Solutions, research director at the Center for Racial Justice, and assistant research scientist at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
On campus, Poverty Solutions creates learning opportunities for students through its annual Real-World Perspectives on Poverty Solutions speak series that doubles as a course, the Poverty Solutions certificate program offered in partnership with the School of Social Work’s Community Action and Social Change minor, and student research opportunities for undergraduates through doctoral students.
The research initiative has supported the launch of seven new faculty pilot projects and several transdisciplinary initiatives led by faculty all over campus, including Housing Solutions for Health Equity with the School of Public Health, the Crafting Democratic Futures project in partnership with the Center for Social Solutions, and the Program for Equity in Adolescent and Child Health with Michigan Medicine. Poverty Solutions staff and faculty affiliates published more than 30 high-profile academic journal articles, policy briefs, and working papers in 2022.
“Poverty Solutions takes an active role in fostering relationships among faculty and students. We want to support the next generation of leaders in understanding the systems that perpetuate racial and socio-economic inequality as well as advancing efforts to eliminate poverty,” said Kristin Seefeldt, associate faculty director for education programs at Poverty Solutions and an associate professor of social work and public policy.