There are 47 million people in poverty in the United States. Although many public and private programs aim to address the needs of the poor, we have only limited information on the effectiveness of many of these programs. A key obstacle to designing evidence-based anti-poverty initiatives is that the groups that innovate (local service providers), evaluate (researchers), and replicate (policy actors) tend to act in isolation. This makes it difficult to identify successful programs and replicate them nationally.
Economists James Sullivan, William Evans and Melissa Kearney will organize a two-day conference, titled "Improving Evidence, Improving Outcomes," at the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) at the University of Notre Dame, on March 19-20, 2015. The conference will bring together approximately 30 researchers, social service providers, policy advocates, and funding organizations to lay the groundwork for several large-scale random-assignment research projects that would identify effective, scalable anti-poverty programs. The conference will include presentations from researchers and providers. The academics will discuss lessons from the research community on interventions that have evidence of promise of reducing social inequality. Key focus areas include early childhood development, affordable housing, prisoner reentry, postsecondary education, and comprehensive case management. The leaders from the service provider sector will highlight new, innovative anti-poverty programs in those areas that have the potential to be implemented on a large scale.
The conference will provide an opportunity for these two groups to interact in order to promote greater collaboration and foster evidence-based program design. The goal is to generate three to four rigorous experiments testing the impact of innovative anti-poverty programs based on partnerships formed and supported by this conference.