In 2023, Poverty Solutions leaned into its mission to cultivate action-based research partnerships with community stakeholders and policymakers to find what works in confronting poverty.
We use that evidence to be a part of positive, systemic change. Our approach starts with listening. We share findings, propose interventions, evaluate the effects of those interventions, and listen again as new models take shape.
Our annual impact report features highlights from our work over the past year at the national, statewide, local, and campus levels.
What You'll Find in this Report
What is Poverty Solutions?
Policy impact highlights
Centering Dignity in Public Assistance
Guaranteed Income to Grow Ann Arbor
Flint Rx Kids
Tackling Poverty on a National Scale
The Injustice of Place
In their new book, The Injustice of Place, Poverty Solutions Faculty Director Luke Shaefer and his Princeton colleagues Kathryn Edin and Timothy Nelson turn their attention from the country’s poorest people to its poorest places. Based on a fresh, data-driven approach, they discover that America’s most disadvantaged communities are rural, and their in-depth exploration of those places offers new insights into common drivers of regional disadvantage. Shaefer and his co-authors presented their findings at the White House and advised members of Congress and leadership in the Executive Branch on place-based approaches to poverty alleviation. The Injustice of Place has also received attention from rural leaders and numerous news outlets, including The Atlantic, TIME, and Rural Matters.
Youth Homelessness Data Profiles
In partnership with SchoolHouse Connection, Jennifer Erb-Downward, director of housing stability programs and policy initiatives at Poverty Solutions, created searchable data profiles to raise awareness of the scale and impact of homelessness on children and youth and to underscore the need for action to meet their needs. This is the first time child and youth homelessness data have been available at the county and Congressional levels. SchoolHouse Connection routinely uses the data profiles to educate members of Congress about the needs of youth experiencing homelessness. Los Angeles County’s Head Start program and Covenant House New Jersey also used the data to better understand the families they serve.
WORKING WITH FEDERAL AGENCIES
Poverty Solutions and the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to host expert convenings over a five year period to inform the work of the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in the Administration of Children and Families. Poverty Solutions brought together leading experts in the field to discuss potential changes in evidence standards for employment and training programs and to explore various dimensions of job quality.
Transportation Security and Economic Mobility
One of the first faculty research projects that Poverty Solutions supported, back in 2017, was the development of a Transportation Security Index led by Alexandra Murphy, an assistant professor of sociology. After publishing a journal article in 2022 on their novel, validated transportation insecurity survey, Murphy and her partners have continued to share their findings. Today, researchers, educators, urban planners, health care practitioners, and others across the country are using the Transportation Security Index to better understand residents’ travel behavior and support for public transit options, how to make travel more environmentally friendly, and transportation insecurity as a social determinant of health. The index also is being used to evaluate how universal basic income and transportation-specific mobility interventions affect transportation security as well as city-wide prevalence of transportation insecurity in Detroit and Baltimore.
Breaking Barriers in Michigan
Addressing the Child Care Shortage
Karen Ann Kling, interim managing director and assistant director of policy impact at Poverty Solutions; and William Lopez, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Poverty Solutions special advisor; worked with North Central Michigan College’s Child Care Initiative to survey business leaders, parents and prospective parents, and child care providers about child care needs as a workplace issue in northern Michigan’s Emmet County. In October 2023, a follow-up report shared outcomes from a 10-month initiative to provide technical assistance to five local child care providers to see what they needed to grow their businesses and expand access to affordable child care.
Poverty Solutions continues to provide data-driven insights into various dimensions of poverty across the state. Samiul Jubaed, senior data and policy analyst, worked with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Food Bank Council of Michigan to create a food security map that shows data related to employment, poverty, and food assistance. John Bulat, data and policy analyst, worked with the Opioid Prescribing Engagement Network to map data related to opioid use and poverty, which pointed to three regional clusters hit hardest by the opioid crisis.
Expanding Youth Shelter Access
Michigan’s 2024 budget included a $5.3 million increase for Homeless Youth and Runaway (HYR) programs. One of the groups pushing for the funding boost, Michigan’s Children, drew from a Poverty Solutions policy brief by Jennifer Erb-Downward, director housing stability programs and policy initiatives; and Amanda Nothaft, director of data and evaluation. The policy brief outlined the health risks facing unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness.
Action-based Local Partnerships
Supporting Bold Ideas in Detroit
Poverty Solutions is supporting the Detroit Financial Well-Being Innovation Challenge, which is fueled by an investment of over $2 million from United Way for Southeastern Michigan in response to Poverty Solutions’ research. From over 30 initial entries, 17 projects aimed at improving the financial well-being of Detroit residents were invited to participate in the Planning Stage. Senior Project Manager Leonymae Aumentado guided 14 student research assistants in supporting the project teams as they fleshed out their ideas. In August 2023, six grantees advanced to the Pilot Stage. John Bulat, data and policy analyst; Amanda Nothaft, director of data and evaluation; Sam Stragand, senior program manager of the Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility; and Aumentado worked with grantees to design evaluation plans that assess the outcomes of their pilots and inform plans to scale their pilots further.. In the final stage of the challenge, select pilots will receive up to $1 million to scale their idea city-wide.
Poverty Solutions continues to support the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS), which fields ongoing representative surveys of Detroit residents. In 2023, DMACS – which is managed by Sharon Sand and Poverty Solutions Special Advisor Mara Ostfeld – asked Detroiters about their support for various types of reparations. The survey found perceptions of the racial wealth gap, the legacy of slavery, and other forms of racial inequity are strongly connected to support for reparations and policies that address racial inequity. Sixteen news stories covered the findings, Detroit’s Reparations Taskforce reviewed the report, and DMACS will have an article published in a reparations edition of the Russell Sage Foundation Journal of Social Sciences.
Supporting Small Businesses
The Community Tech Workers program pairs U-M students with small business owners in Detroit for free one-on-one technology training. At this point, 180 businesses have received the tech assistance, with five U-M students involved as tech workers and two as research assistants. Associate Faculty Director Kristin Seefeldt is part of a research team obtaining data from the program to better understand the scope of small business owners’ technology needs and their preferences for delivery of support.
Amplifying Youth Voice
Poverty Solutions facilitated communications workshops over the summer with the Detroit Phoenix Center, a nonprofit that provides direct assistance and leadership development to teens and young adults experiencing housing instability. Lauren Slagter, communications director; Jennifer Erb-Downward, director of housing stability programs and policy initiatives; and Nina Williams, youth communications fellow; worked with the youth leaders to co-create content that shares their vision for the future, solutions they would like to see to stressors affecting teens, and their advice for adults who work with teens.
Promoting Equity in the Workplace
Poverty Solutions partners with Washtenaw County’s Office of Community and Economic Development, Michigan Works! Southeast, and Michigan Rehabilitation Services to run SummerWorks, Washtenaw County’s summer youth employment program. SummerWorks Program Manager Kathleen Clancey facilitated paid internship placements, mentorship matches, professional development for youth, and coaching for employers on how to foster an inclusive workplace for young employees and people with varying abilities.
Learning with a Campus Community
Next Generation of Thought Leaders
In 2023, Poverty Solutions engaged with 139 students from 17 of U-M’s 19 schools and colleges. Our action-based research assistant opportunities, academic programs, and events aim to deepen students’ understanding of the root causes of poverty, offer real-world experience, and further ignite their dedication to pursue solutions to the poverty challenges of our time. Engaging students, in turn, brings new insight, knowledge, and opinions to our work and adds vital support and capacity to our research.
Supporting Poverty Scholars
Poverty Solutions awarded grants to support faculty research on:
• cash transfer programs in Latin America during the COVID-19 pandemic, led by Luciana de Souza Leão, assistant professor in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts;
• measuring the health effects of public investment in residential plumbing repairs, led by Sara Hughes, assistant professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability;
• and strengthening the narrative infrastructure of the Detroit River corridor in order to reconnect communities with the river through Detroit River Story Lab, led by David Porter, professor of English.
Pipeline to Success in Academia
Poverty Solutions hosted the Russell Sage Foundation’s Pipeline Capstone Conference at U-M in July 2023. Seventy-one people attended the two-day conference, where Pipeline grantees had the opportunity to share their projects with a diverse group of scholars and expand their networks. Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy Dean Celeste Watkins-Hayes was one of the keynote speakers. RSF's Pipeline Grants Competition, co-funded with the Economic Mobility and Opportunity program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, seeks to promote diversity in the social sciences, including racial, ethnic, gender, disciplinary, institutional, and geographic diversity. Since 2020, four rounds of the competition have funded 77 early-career scholars from colleges and universities across the United States. Pipeline grantees are paired with mentors who offer advice on their projects and career development.
Tracking the Labor Market
Poverty Solutions provided data analysis and communications support to Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and former member of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and Chief Economist at Labor. Stevenson provided rapid-response analysis of labor market trends based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly Jobs Reports. Her eight monthly blog posts received more than 2,000 views total, and Stevenson discussed her analysis with national news outlets including Bloomberg, NPR, and Face the Nation.
Informing the Conversation
Poverty Solutions’ researchers and faculty affiliates received 533 media mentions in 2023, including coverage from national outlets like the New York Times, Huff Post, and Marketplace; statewide outlets like the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Michigan Radio, and MLive; and niche publications like Outlier Media, Daily Yonder, and Michigan Chronicle.
Real-World Perspectives on Poverty Solutions
Our sixth-annual fall speaker series featured eight lectures on poverty-related topics ranging from reparations to the health tolls of living in an unjust society, human-centered design, guaranteed income, green enterprise, neighborhood choice, life after incarceration, and how Poverty Solutions alumni applied our approach to action-based research to their public policy careers. The series – which is spearheaded by Trevor Bechtel, student engagement coordinator; Karissa Knapp, communications specialist; and Harley Burdette, senior administrative assistant – is open to the public as well as serving as a one-credit course for U-M students.
Next Steps in Poverty Alleviation
- 1. The launch of Rx Kids with a celebratory event in Flint that’s open to the public on Feb. 14.
- 2. Distribution of monthly guaranteed income payments through Guaranteed Income to Grow Ann Arbor.
- 3. Working with U-M’s Center for Social Solutions to deliver recommendations for community-based approaches to reparations in Detroit.
- 4. Expanding our portfolio of projects under the Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility, including an anticipated partnership with the City of Detroit to evaluate its ShotStoppers community violence intervention program.
We appreciate the many supporters and partners who join us in this work. We are especially grateful for the support of our current funders: American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, Ballmer Group, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, City of Ann Arbor, Erb Family Foundation, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Magnus Family Fund, McGregor Fund, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, National Poverty Center, Program for Equity in Adolescent and Child Health, Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, Russell Sage Foundation, SchoolHouse Connection, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, University of Michigan, Washtenaw County, and individual donors. Together, we can continue to make a positive difference in the lives of millions of people by advancing new solutions to poverty. We hope you'll stay connected to this work by clicking the buttons below to subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on social media, or give.
2023 Impact Report for Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan prepared by Lauren Slagter, Karissa Knapp, and Joe Payovich.
Photos used throughout the impact report are from: Michigan Photography, Creative Focus Productions, Doug Coombe, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Michigan State University, Detroit Metro Area Communities Study, Lauren Slagter, and stock photos licensed through Free Stock and Canva.