The Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis is one of three
federally designated centers whose mission is to facilitate
non-partisan academic research on poverty in the
U.S., disseminate this research, and train the next
generation of poverty scholars. Our research agenda
includes four themed areas of focus: labor markets and poverty,
children and intergenerational transmission of poverty, the
non-traditional safety net, and immigration.
A minimum wage is the lowest wage that employers may legally pay
to workers. The first minimum wage law was enacted in 1894
in New Zealand.
With the passage of The
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), the U.S. minimum
wage was initially set at $0.25 per hour for covered
workers. Since then, it has been raised 22 separate
times–most recently, in July 2009, to $7.25 an hour.
The U.S.D.A.’s Economic Research Service monitors the extent and
severity of food insecurity in U.S. households through a
supplement to the Current Population Survey. Responses to a
series of 18 questions are used to determine whether a household
is food insecure.
The official poverty statistics do not track individuals or
households over time so there are no official data on poverty
Despite the lack of official data, other surveys do provide the
ability to track poverty status over time. Two recent studies
have used differing data sources and methods to provide some
insight into the characteristics of poverty spells.
Census Bureau Study
The Census Bureau has used monthly data from the Survey of Income
and Program Participation to look at poverty entry and
exit in the period 2009-2012.
In 2013, about 1.5 million U.S. workers age 16 and over earned
exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Another 1.8 million had wages below the federal
minimum. Together these workers make up 4 percent of all
hourly paid workers.
In 2012, 46.5 million people were poor. The majority of the
people who live below the poverty level do not work. According to
data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.6 million or 23
percent of the poor were “working poor.”
There are two official measures of poverty: poverty guidelines
and poverty thresholds. Both of these measures are intended
to identify the level of income necessary to meet basic needs and
are updated annually.
The Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis seeks applications
from graduate students who are interested in visiting the
Center in order to expand their understanding of the causes and
consequences of poverty. The Center anticipates hosting up to
four graduate students during fall quarter 2015.
We seek applications from Ph.D. students in a variety of
disciplines, including economics, psychology, sociology, social
work, public policy and graduate schools of law and education,
with research interests in our core research areas:
In November 2014, the Center hosted the conference “Poverty and
Place,” which focused on the implications of geography and
population density have for poverty.
This conference brought together a unique mix of researchers,
policy professionals and industry leaders to discuss their work
studying the people, geography, and the safety net as it relates
to persistent poverty.
In these pages, we have gathered materials from conference
presentations on poverty and place with:
Audio recordings of conference presentations and panels, as
well as slides
Facts and figures, as well as links to outside sources, that
provide a clearer picture of poverty in the U.S.
Central to our mission is the dissemination of poverty research.
We hope you will consider these pages a useful, ongoing resource
as we continue to add new work on U.S. poverty.
Harry Holzer is a professor of public policy at the Georgetown
Public Policy Institute. He is currently an Institute Fellow at
the American Institutes for Research, a Senior Affiliate at the
Urban Institute, a Senior Affiliate of the National Poverty
Center at the University of Michigan, a National Fellow of the
Program on Inequality and Social Policy at Harvard University, a
Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and a
Research Affiliate of the Institute for Research on Poverty at
the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
Dr. Chris Benner is an Associate Professor of Community and
Regional Development, and Chair of the Geography Graduate Group
at the University of California, Davis. His research
focuses on the relationships between technological change,
regional development, and the structure of economic opportunity,
focusing on regional labor markets and the transformation of work
and employment patterns.
Ann Huff Stevens is Director of the Center for Poverty Research
at UC Davis, Professor in the Department of Economics, and
Interim Dean at the Graduate School of Management. She studies
low income workers and labor markets, the incidence and effects
of job loss, connections between economic shocks and health, and
poverty and safety-net dynamics.
Gail Goodman received her degree in Developmental Psychology from
UCLA in 1977. Her areas of research expertise include welfare
recipients, foster care, and the intergenerational transmission
of attachment insecurity.
Marianne Page is Deputy Director of the Center for Poverty
Research. Her research includes inter-generational mobility and
the impact of social programs on children’s outcomes. Recent
projects include investigations of the causal relationship
between parental education and children’s success in school,
distributional effects of class size reduction policies, and the
impact of the WIC program on young children’s health.
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Leticia Saucedo received her degree, cum laude, from
Harvard Law School in 1996. Her research centers on employment
and immigration law, immigrants in low-wage workplaces and the
structural dynamics affecting their entry.
Lisa Pruitt’s areas of research include legal and policy
implications of income inequality along the rural-urban continuum
and legal aspects of declining mobility, with an emphasis on
diminishing access to higher education.
Michal Kurlaender’s work focuses on education policy and
evaluation, particularly practices that address existing
racial/ethnic and socioeconomic inequality at various stages of
the educational attainment process.
Ross A. Thompson’s research focuses on the applications of
developmental research to public policy concerns, including
school readiness and its development, early childhood
investments, and early mental health.
Kimberlee Shauman received her degree in Sociology, Population
Demography and Ecology from the University of Michigan in 1997.
Her areas of expertise include social stratification, family and
kinship, demography, sociology of education, and quantitative
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Paul Heckman received his degree in Curriculum and the Study of
Schooling from the University of California, Los Angeles in
1982. His research focuses on the educational ecology of
communities, school restructuring, and school culture, change and
Paul Hastings received his degree from the University of Toronto.
His research focuses on the impact of stressors on child and
adolescent well-being, and the effects of poverty on
physiological reactivity, regulation and development of mental
and physical health problems.
Rand Conger received his degree in Sociology from the University
of Washington in 1976. His research focuses on social and
economic stress; life course development; family interaction
processes; and family research methods.
Giovanni Peri received his degree in Economics from UC Berkeley
in 1998. His research focuses on the determinants of
international migrations and their impact on labor markets,
productivity, and investments.
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In his State of the City speech Thursday night, Sacramento Mayor
Kevin Johnson said he wanted to put together a task force to look
at raising the minimum wage in the capital city.
Currently, the city’s minimum wage is the same as California’s
state minimum wage — $9 per hour. In 2016, it will increase to
$10 per hour. But some cities across the nation, such as San
Francisco and Seattle, have sought higher minimum wages for their
President Obama’s proposal to make community colleges free is a
valiant effort to address the rising demand for skilled workers
throughout the nation and to improve college access for
low-income students. As states consider his proposal, they would
be wise to look to California. Our research in the state suggests
that low tuition can put higher education within reach for many
low-income students, but it is no panacea. Even with high
participation levels and nearly free community college, many
California students do not complete degrees.