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Poverty and Inequality Learning Community

Discuss the integration of teaching, research, and service directed towards policies and interventions to confront poverty and inequality.

The Learning Community on Poverty and Inequality (LCPI) promotes opportunities to link the research, policy and service, and teaching interests of faculty for whom poverty and inequality are some of the compelling core roots of their scholarship. We bring together macro- and micro-oriented faculty and students who approach poverty and inequality with widely disparate perspectives.  We welcome particpants who bring multi-level and diverse theoretical and methodological orientations.


  • To broaden and deepen the conversation about poverty, inequality and social class within the School of Social Work, to share our multiple perspectives and ongoing learning on strategies that may counter poverty and economic inequality, and to better prepare students to address the deeply pernicious effects of poverty on the client populations they will serve in the field across all practice levels.
  • Advance collaboration between faculty and students working in the area of poverty and inequality research within the School of Social Work.


The LCPI was established in 2011 at the requests of both faculty and students to focus more academic opportunities around poverty and inequality issues. In its first years the group hopes to develop a unique curricular “space” for these concerns in order to enhance new research and program directions while providing stronger ties with policy makers and practicioners.

Academic Programs

Curriculum development

Many courses currently include content on poverty and inequality, but none are specifically focused on the topic. Mini-courses directly confront specific issues, which is why the development of mini-courses focusing on specific target groups and/or causes and consequences of poverty and inequality are necessary. The LCPI will merge teaching and research by engaging students and faculty in this process. Students would be encouraged to consider and act on research directions proposed in their coursework or field placement.

Field placements and research collaborations

The Learning Community will work with the Office of Field Instruction and field agencies directly to explore learning opportunities, potential research collaborations, and additional field placement options. Collaborations could take the form of program evaluation assistance, joint development of needs assessments, and use of emerging research technologies to support improved analyses of administrative data and the design of interventions.

Collaborative Projects

Rackham Graduate School

Joint program Ph.D. students have developed and now direct a Rackham Interdisciplinary Group on Poverty and Inequality and draw many students across the campus to their events and student research presentations.

Knowledge development Products

The learning community anticipates that, as a tight-knit group of faculty and students, there will be increased opportunities for collaboration on products that contribute to the understanding of poverty and equality and inform solution-oriented practice. These opportunities could lead to policy briefs, articles, grant proposals, or a published book.

Community Engagement - State and local policy engagement

The learning community will serve as a forum to discuss current policies and proposals and how they might impact low-income families. As a result of this discussion, there is potential for students to collaborate on writing policy memos or op-ed articles presenting information that summarizes the current issue and suggests future action. This type of work could be useful for state policy makers, human services executives, and could even lead to co-authored publications.

Participating Faculty

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  • Mathieu R. Despard

    Mathieu R. Despard

    Assistant Professor of Social Work
    Financial capability and security of lower-income households, emergency savings, Earned Income Tax Credit, evidence-informed practice in nonprofits, and nonprofit capacity-building and financial sustainability.
  • Andrew C. Grogan-Kaylor

    Andrew C. Grogan-Kaylor

    Associate Professor of Social Work
    Academic outcomes, corporal punishment,, program evaluation, community antecedents of poor parenting, the relationship of family, neighborhood, and school indicators with child socio-behavioral outcomes, statistical models for longitudinal and multilevel data, and for meta-analysis, data visualization.
  • Sherrie A. Kossoudji

    Sherrie A. Kossoudji

    Associate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Economics, College of LS&A
    Immigrant work lives, labor market inequalities, migrant worker opportunities, gender economics.
  • Shawna J. Lee

    Shawna J. Lee

    Associate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work and Faculty Associate, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research
    Father's parenting risk behaviors, child maltreatment, community-based interventions
  • Laura  Lein

    Laura Lein

    Katherine Reebel Collegiate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, and Professor of Anthropology, College of LS&A
    Households in poverty, NGOs and human services, health disparities, women's employment, child care, interdisciplinary and mixed methods research approaches.
  • Reuben J. Miller

    Reuben J. Miller

    Assistant Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work and Faculty Associate, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research
    Prisoner reentry, crime control, criminal justice and social welfare policy, race and ethnic relations, urban poor
  • Julie M. Ribaudo

    Julie M. Ribaudo

    Clinical Associate Professor of Social Work
    Psychotherapy, community mental health, child welfare, public health, early intervention, challenging infants, mental health, infant mental health, clinical supervision
  • Lawrence  Root

    Lawrence Root

    Professor of Social Work
    Social welfare/employment, services in the workplace, work-family, and cross-national labor policy/practices.
  • Kristin S. Seefeldt

    Kristin S. Seefeldt

    Assistant Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work and Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy
    Poverty, economic well being, financial coping strategies, recession, recovery policies, work-life balance
  • H. Luke  Shaefer

    H. Luke Shaefer

    Associate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, Faculty Associate, Survey Research Center, Faculty Associate, Population Studies Center, Institute for Social Research, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy and Center Director, Poverty Center
    Social safety net, low-wage workers, economically disadvantage families, non-profit management
  • Trina R. Shanks

    Trina R. Shanks

    Associate Professor of Social Work, School of Social Work, and Faculty Associate, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research
    Child well-being, asset building, 529 college education plans, SEED, Rhodes scholar, economic development
  • Addie Weaver

    Addie Weaver

    Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
    Access to mental health services for underserved, economically disadvantaged individuals and families living in rural communities

Other Faculty

Joe Grengs

Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning
School of Natural Resources and Environment

Christine Weiland

Assistant Professor
School of Education

Natasha Pilkauskas

Assistant Professor of Public Policy
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Alexandra Murphy

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Faculty Affiliate of the Population Studies Center at the Institute for Social Research
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

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