Ann Huff Stevens and MBA students craft Thrive Index for Shriver’s poverty report
January 14, 2014

DAVIS, Calif. — Amid the 500-plus pages of the newly released Shriver Report on poverty among women, you will find the Thrive Index, the work of UC Davis economics professor Ann Huff Stevens with research assistance from MBA students in the Graduate School of Management.

Stevens is chair of the Department of Economics and director of the Center for Poverty Research. Read about the center’s recent two-day conference marking the 50th anniversary of LBJ’s War on Poverty.

The Thrive Index helps managers identify company policies and best practices that promote the success of low-wage female workers, increasing their productivity and creating a thriving workplace for employees and employers alike, according to a news release announcing the third of journalist Maria Shriver’s reports (from the front lines of our changing lives.)

The Thrive Index

In creating the index, Professor Stevens and her team of MBA students did an extensive review of existing research, looking for the first time at the specific needs of low-wage workers who are often also primary caregivers, according to “Introducing the Thrive Index,” an article on the Center for American Progress website.

“Benefiting from the invaluable expertise of Ellen Galinsky and Families and Work Institute, they produced a first-of-its-kind checklist for employers to use when considering how to invest in their most valuable—and undervalued—labor resource: low-wage women.”

The index comprises five categories and 24 questions that businesses should consider. Here are some examples:

Adequate wages and benefits

  • Are most part-time workers guaranteed a minimum number of hours per week? If not, are there ways they could be?
  • Are workers who remain on the job for a specified period of time eligible for a pay increase?

Opportunities for learning and upward mobility

  • Do low-wage workers have opportunities for on-the-job or cross-task training or outside educational opportunities that can lead to upward mobility?
  • Are there opportunities for upward mobility within the company that do not require geographic relocation?

Support for personal and family needs

  • Can worker breaks be scheduled to accommodate the need for phone calls at prespecified times for working caregivers?
  • Are occasional calls for urgent matters allowable? Can children or caregivers call an employee at work when necessary?

Work scheduling, predictability and flexibility

  • Does the shift/hours scheduling system take account of workers’ constraints and preferences?
  • Are work schedules announced more than a day or two in advance? Can workers trade shifts with colleagues when time conflicts develop (allow “shift swapping”)?

Autonomy, respect and trust

  • Are workers protected from “no-fault” absence or tardiness policies (ones that lead to disciplinary actions or dismissal, even for excused absences)?
  • Are workers allowed or encouraged to contribute ideas to better organize or improve their work teams or work areas?

Reporting on Women in Poverty

A new report by Shriver, “A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink,” prepared in partnership with the Center for American Progress, came out earlier this week.

“Today, more than one in three Americans — more than 100 million people — live in poverty or on the edge of it,” states the report’s executive summary. “Half of all Americans will spend at least a few months churning into and out of poverty during their lifetimes. This economic immobility and inequality is a systemic and pervasive problem that President Barack Obama recently described as ‘the defining challenge of our time.’”

The new Shriver Report reveals this crisis through the eyes of women. “Forty-two million women, and the 28 million children who depend on them, are living one single incident — a doctor’s bill, a late paycheck or a broken-down car — away from economic ruin,” the executive summary declares.

“Women make up nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers, the vast majority of whom receive no paid sick days. This is at a time when women earn most of the college and advanced degrees in this country, make most of the consumer spending decisions by far, and are more than half of the nation’s voters.”

“A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink” proposes solutions that include a combination of public, private and personal approaches.

“We have brought together the best and brightest minds and challenged them to collaborate with us to develop fresh thinking around these issues,” the executive summary states. “Taken together, these ideas present a modern social architecture designed to make individuals, businesses and government stronger, more innovative and better tailored to the realities of today’s hardworking families.”

The report can be downloaded for free through Wednesday (Jan. 15). Afterward, it will be available for purchase on, for download to the Amazon Kindle e-reader, and in book form.

The ongoing, multiplatform Shriver Report also includes photojournalism, an HBO documentary (Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert) and media partners (The Atlantic magazine, and the NBC and MSNBC television networks), along with the Thrive Index and other features, including a nationwide poll, the Life Ed curriculum and the Shriver Corps.

There’s also a classroom initiative, in which the Shriver Report will be used in classes ranging from sociology and gender studies to public policy, business, education and public health in colleges and universities across the country.


The Atlantic presents “The Shriver Report Live” (online), 6 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 15).

The Shriver Report website invites “citizen reporters” to write about what’s going on in their own lives: unsettling changes, complexities, shifts and modern realities.

Watch the Shriver Report’s video trailer, “She’s the One.”