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Laura Lein

Katherine Reebel Collegiate Professor Emerita of Social Work, Professor Emerita of Social Work, and Professor Emerita of Anthropology

Laura  Lein

Laura Lein is the former dean of the University of Michigan School of Social Work (2009-2016). Formerly professor of social work and anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin (UT), she was a respected researcher and teacher from 1985 to 2008. She has served as principal investigator on multiple grants on poverty, family and women's issues, and impoverished populations in Texas.

Lein directed the Women's Studies Program at the University of Texas at Austin for two terms, from 1987 to 1991, where she coordinated interdisciplinary curriculum, fund development, and new programs. She was also director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women from 1981 to 1985 and director of an interdisciplinary project on work, family interaction, and child development at the Center for the Study of Public Policy in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from 1973 to 1977.

She has served on boards of many organizations, including the United Way of Texas Child Care Working Group and the National Academy of Sciences Research Council Committee on Child Development Research and Public Policy.

Lein graduated from Harvard with a doctorate in social anthropology. Her work has concentrated on the interface between families in poverty and the institutions that serve them. She is author of nine books on welfare, health care, children, and families, including Poor Families in America's Health Care Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2006), coauthored with Ronald Angel and Jane Henrici.

Research Interests/Focus

Households in poverty, NGOs and human services, health disparities, women's employment, child care, interdisciplinary and mixed methods research approaches.


Year Degree   School
1973 PhD Social Anthropology Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
1970 MA Social Anthropology Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
1969 BA Sociology/ Anthropology Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA


Social Work Grand Challenges
Year Description
2007 Lein, L., Roy, K., Speirs, K., Vesely, C., & Burton, L. (2007, April). Children "in good hands"? An ethnographic perspective of cross-city variation in child care and work transitions for low-income families. Presented at the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research Conference.
2007 Lein, L., Angel, R., Bell, H., & Beausoleil, J. (2007, April). Non-governmental organizations, the state, and families in crisis. Presented at the Tulane University and the Social Science Research Council co-sponsored conference, Disaster and migration.
2006 Lein, L. (2006, August). The politics of poverty in disaster preparedness and relief. Presented at the American Cancer Society and the Texas Partnership for End-of-Life Care conference: A common thread: Undaunted by death, social work practice in end of life and palliative care.
2006 Lein, L., & Schroeder, D. (2006, September). Child care market rate survey. Presented at the State Association of Child Care Managers, Corpus Christi.
2006 Lein, L. (2006, November). Mothers in poverty: Learning from qualitative research – An emphasis on health. Training in qualitative research methods for the study of poverty. Presented at the Federal Reserve System and The Brookings Institute.
2006 Lein, L. (2006, November). Research with Katrina evacuees. Presented at the Institute of Grief and Loss, The University of Texas School of Social Work.
2005 Lein, L. (2005, April). Learning about poverty through the eyes of low-income mothers: The use of multiple strategies. Presented at Poverty, Wealth and the Working Poor: Clinical and Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Washington University School of Law and School of Social Work.
2003 Lein, L. (2003). Mothers in poverty: Health and welfare. Presented at the Symposium on Low Income Families and Welfare Reform, Center for Family and Demographic Research, Bowling Green State University.
2003 Lein, L. (2003, March). The role of the border in defining and re-defining mothering. Presented at the Annual Latin American Studies Conference, Dallas, TX.
2003 Lein, L. (2003, June). The walls of Jericho: Poverty, work, and mothering. Presented at the Work, Family, Health and Well-Being Conference, The National Institutes of Health, Washington, D.C.
2003 Lein, L. (2003, October). Mothers in poverty: work, health and health insurance. Presented at the Behavioral and Social Sciences 2003 Seminar Series, National Institutes of Health, Washington, D.C.
2003 Lein, L., & Bell, H. (2003, October). Welfare reform and families: Domestic violence and other life issues. Presented at the 4th Trapped by Poverty/Trapped by Abuse Conference, Austin, TX.
2002 Lein, L. (2002, January). Welfare reform and children: Health and Medicaid: Texas grantmakers in health and human services. Presented at the Hogg Foundation, Austin, TX.
2002 Lein, L., Dominguez, D., & Douglas, D. (2002, January). Leaving welfare: Families diverted from or leaving TANF in dix Texas counties. Presented at the Sixth Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work and Research, San Diego, CA.
2002 Lein, L., Benjamin, A., McManus, M., & Roy, K. (2002, August). Economic roulette: When is a job not a job? Presented at the American Sociological Association, Chicago, IL.
2002 Lein, L., & Schexnayder, D. (2002, August). Texas leavers and divertees after TANF: Findings from a multi-disciplinary analysis. Presented at the National Association of Welfare Research and Statistics,Albuquerque, NM.
2002 Lein, L., Dominguez, D., Douglas, K., & Schexnayder, D. (2002, November). Making it in a low-wage job: The role of family and friends. Presented at the National Council on Family Relations.
2001 Lein, L. (2001, March). Qualitative research and community action keynote and workshop. Presented at the Annie E. Casey Foundation Conference on Community Partnerships.
2001 Lein, L. (2001, June). Welfare reform: Issues in a rural context. Presented at The 26th Institute on Human Services in Rural Areas, Austin, TX.
2001 Lein, L., & Henrici, J. (2001, June). How ethnography can contribute to child and family policy. Presented at the Third Annual Summer Institute, Family Research Consortium, Lake Tahoe, CA.
2001 Lein, L. (2001, August). Designing and implementing large scale: Comparative, qualitative/ethnographic research. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
2001 Lein, L., Murphy, K., Cole, P., Jacquet, S., Conde-Dudding, E., Contreras, H., et al. (2001, October). Choosing between being sanctioned or pursuing child support: Reports from TANF clients in Austin, Texas. Presented at the Trapped by Poverty/Trapped by Abuse Conference, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.
2001 Lein, L. (2001, November). Parenting in an era of welfare reform. Presented at The Daily Lives of Poor Families, Berkeley School of Public Welfare.
2000 Lein, L., de la Garza, V., Ellis, G., Murphy, K., & Steiner, A. (2000, February). The "One-Time Payment" Program in Texas: Outcomes for recipient households. Presented at the University of Oregon.
2000 Lein, L. (2000, March). Welfare reform: Overview/ethnographic experiences. Presented at the Southwestern Social Science Association, Galveston, TX.
2000 Lein, L. (2000, May). Poverty and violence in the lives of women and children. Presented at the Texas Council on Family Violence, Austin, TX.
2000 Lein, L. (2000, August). Welfare mothers in the United States: Myths and policies. Keynote address presented at The Rockefeller Foundation/MDRC Conference for Jobs Initiative Programs: Engaging and employing the people who are “harder-to-serve,” Santa Cruz, CA.
2000 Lein, L. (2000, September). New data sources on families. Keynote address presented at The 2000 KIDS COUNT Annual Meeting, Denver, CO.
2000 Lein, L. (2000, October). Questions that work. Presented at the Fall 2000 Welfare Outcomes Grantee Meeting, ASPE, Washington, D.C.
2000 Lein, L. (2000, November). Prosperity gap: Putting the new economy to work for all Texans. Presented at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Austin, TX.
1999 Lein, L. (1999, March). Making ends meet: Author meets the critics. Presented at the Eastern Sociological Association Meeting, Boston, MA.
1999 Lein, L. (1999, April). Welfare reform and empowerment: Success or illusion. Presented at the Thirteenth Annual Meeting of Catholic Charities, Catholic Social Action, Parish Social Ministry Staff and Volunteers of the Arch Dioceses of Texas, San Antonio, TX.
1999 Lein, L. (1999, May). What we do makes a difference: Food stamps. Presented at the National OIC Meeting (Food Stamps Officials), Albuquerque, NM.
1999 Lein, L. (1999, August). Making ends meet: Author meets the critics. Presented at the American Sociological Meeting, Chicago, IL.
1999 Lein, L. (1999, August). Family resources and student learning. Presented at the American Psychological Association Meeting, Boston, MA.
1998 Lein, L. (1998, July). Making ends meet. Presented at Volunteer Muskegan, Muskegan, MI.
1997 Lein, L., & Edin, K. (1997, April). Welfare, low-wage work, and material hardship among Mexican American women. Presented at the Latin American Studies Association XX International Congress, Guadalajara, Mexico.
1997 Lein, L., & Edin, K. (1997, April). The private safety net: The role of private charitable organizations in the lives of the poor. Presented at The 1997 Fannie Mae Foundation Annual Housing Conference.
1997 Lein, L. (1997, December). Making ends meet. Presented at the United Way Area Conference/TDHS Seminar.
1996 Lein, L. (1996). Critical Policy Issues Facing Families Along the U.S.-Mexico Border: Effects on Social Service Provision. Council on Social Work Education Annual Program.
1995 Lein, L. (1995, Spring). Ethnographic research and poverty. Presented at the Poverty Research Center, University of Michigan.
1995 Lein, L., & Romo, H. (1995, August). The language of categorization: Putting students in place. Presented at the American Psychological Association Meetings.
1995 Lein, L. (1995). Welfare mothers' coping strategies. Washington, D.C.
1994 Lein, L. (1994, July). The qualitative assessment of transition programs. Head Start National Transition Consortium.
1994 Lein, L. (1994, April). The school of the future. Presented at Tracking Program Progress with Qualitative Measures, American Orthopsychiatric Association Meetings.
1994 Lein, L., & Franklin, C. (1994, June). Assessing the delivery of social services in schools: Issues in parent-school communication. Presented at the New Directions in Education Conference, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.
1993 Lein, L. (1993, March). Families in poverty: A collaboration between anthropologists and community organizations. Presented at the Society for Applied Anthropology: Applying Social Science in a Multi-Cultural Setting.
1992 Lein, L. (1992, May). Grants writing. Texas HIV Spring Conference, Austin, TX.
1992 Lein, L. (1992). Evaluation of social work programs. Presented at the School of Social Work Conference, Thompson Conference Center.
1991 Lein, L. (1991). The formation of community in public housing. Presented at the Second Annual Conference on Ethnic Minorities and Gender. The University of Texas, Arlington, TX.
1991 Lein, L. (1991, December). Cultural sensitivity and gender. Presented at Gender issues in the workplace, Sam Houston State University.
1990 Lein, L. (1990, March). Children and child-serving institutions. Presented at the Southwestern Social Science Association.
1989 Lein, L. (1989, April). Child-serving institutions: A view from within the community: First results. Presented at the Association for the Practice of Anthropology.
1989 Lein, L. (1989, May). Children and service institutions. Presented at the John F. Kennedy School of Government Faculty Seminar.
1988 Lein, L. (1988, April). Corporate-provided child care. Presented at the Fourth Annual Women and Work Conference, The University of Texas, Arlington, TX.
1987 Lein, L. (1987, October). Development and funding for interdisciplinary and women's programs. Presented at Adult and Community Education.
1987 Lein, L. (1987, October). Program development in higher education. Presented at the Adult and Community Education Conference. Austin, TX.
1987 Lein, L. (1987, December). Child care in Texas. Presented at the Department of Labor Conference on Women, Technology and Employment.
1986 Lein, L. (1986, October). Negotiations between husbands and wives: Working it out in dual-earner families. Presented at the Anthropology Colloquium Series, 1985-1986.
1986 Lein, L. (1986, November). Working families: Female-headed households. Presented at Texas Families: A Symposium.
1986 Lein, L. (1986, January). The balancing act: A look at the professional and personal lives of mothers employed outside the home. Presented at Women in the Public Sector.
1986 Lein, L. (1986, March). Research on women: What difference does it make? Presented at the Texas Department of Mental Health and Retardation.
1986 Lein, L. (1986, Spring). Women, work and family. Presented at the 1986 National Summit for Women Entrepreneurs, The University of Texas, Austin.
1986 Lein, L. (1986, October). Planning in dual career families. Presented at the College and University Personnel Association.
1986 Lein, L. (1986, November). Women's lives: Planning for the middle years. Presented at the Texas Foundation for Women's Resources.
1985 Lein, L. (1985, March). Commentator, New England Region, U.S. Census Roundtable.
1984 Lein, L. (1984, February). Speaker, Academic Convocation. LaSalle Junior College.
1984 Lein, L. (1984, March). Dual-earner families. Conference on Nurses and Neonatal Care, March of Dimes and the Nursing Association of Massachusetts. Boston, Massachusetts.
1984 Lein, L. (1984, May). Research on women: What difference does it make? Keynote address presented at the Conference on Women and Work, University of Texas, Arlington.
1984 Lein, L. (1984, June). Parenting issues: The working family. Lecture at the Berkshire Area Health Education Center.
1984 Lein, L. (1984, October). Curricular and research programs: Changing women's visions and opportunities. Presented at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association for American Studies, Ottawa.
1984 Lein, L. (1984, November). Changing family roles: Implications for human resource managers. Conference on Corporate Planning for a Changing Labor Force, Options Resource and Career Center, Houston, TX.
1983 Lein, L. (1983, April). The changing household: Its nature and consequences. Conference sponsored by Marketing Science Institute and the American Marketing Association. Cambridge, MA.
1983 Lein, L. (1983, April). Women's lives: New facts, old fictions. Conference sponsored by the Women's Research and Education Institute of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues, Washington, D.C.
1983 Lein, L. (1983, July). Women and their work: Intersections of the marketplace and the household. Invitational Conference at University of California. Berkeley, California.
1982 Lein, L. (1982, March). Helping networks. Presented at the MIT/Harvard Center for Urban Studies Seminar on Social Ties.
1982 Lein, L. (1982, March). Changing American families. Lecture to Women in Philanthropy. Boston, MA.
1982 Lein, L. (1982, March). Our changing culture. Presented at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.
1982 Lein, L. (1982, May). Research on women. Presented at the Harvard - Smithsonian Institute Women. Boston, MA.
1982 Lein, L. (1982, May). Participant, Invitational Conference at National Academy of Sciences on Women and Employment, Washington, D.C.
1981 Lein, L. (1981, March). Family and community. Presented at the Annual Symposium on Parenting. Wheelock College, Boston, MA.
1981 Lein, L. (1981, Summer). Dual career marriages and family life. Presented at the IBM Summer School for Systems Engineers, Wellesley, MA.
1981 Lein, L. (1981, October). Issues in research on women. Presented at the Bunting Institute.
1981 Lein, L. (1981, December). Managing a non-profit institution. Presented at the Radcliffe Seminars.
1980 Lein, L. (1980, March). A socio-economic perspective on family. Presented at the Symposium on Family, Boston City Hospital, Boston, MA.
1980 Lein, L. (1980). Participant, Invitational Conference on Work, Family and Community. Presented at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington.
1980 Lein, L., & Stueve, A. (1980, November). Responsibility for the elderly. Presented at the National Gerontology Meetings, San Francisco, CA.
1979 Lein, L. (1979, March). Changing sex roles: A challenge to planners. Panelist at the American Planning Association, Miami, FL.
1979 Lein, L. (1979, March). Families and social policy: The case of child care. Panelist at the Eastern Sociological Association, Boston, MA.
1979 Lein, L. (1979). Grants and contracts. Workshop leader, Administrative Skills Seminar. Presented at the Higher Education Resource Center.
1979 Lein, L. (1979, November). Keynote address, Symposium on Child Care. Presented at the North Shore Guidance Center, Beverly, MA.
1978 Lein, L. (1978, November). Participant, Invitational Conference at National Institute of Education, Planning for "Work, Family and Community," Washington, D.C.
1976 Lein, L. (1976, December). Alternative family life styles. Presented at the Council for Exceptional Children, London, Canada.
1976 Lein, L. (1976, February). Work and family. (Workshop Leader) Association of New England Family Counselors, Framingham, MA.
1975 Lein, L., & Brenneis, D. (1975, December). Children's disputes: Sequences in content, style and game-playing. Presented at the American Anthropological Association Meetings.
1975 Lein, L. (1975, December). Sequencing in children's discourse. Presented at the American Anthropological Association Meetings (symposium chair).
1974 Lein, L., & Brenneis, D. (1974, November). Stylistic analysis of children's arguments and strategies in Fiji and the United States. Presented at the American Anthropological Association Meetings.
1974 Lein, L. (1974, December). Work and family life. Panelist at the First National Working Conference on Research: Women in Blue Collar Jobs, The Ford Foundation, New York, NY.

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