LEO receives more than $1.2 million in grants to continue its anti-poverty research

Author: Arts and Letters

Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities

The Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities received multiple funding awards totaling more than $1.2 million in 2017 to continue its work reducing poverty and improving lives through evidence-based programs and policies. 

A  nearly $350,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health offers support for a major research initiative on the impact of emergency financial assistance on those at risk of homelessness, while nearly $1 million in grants will help LEO to continue its work reducing poverty and improving lives through evidence-based programs and policies.

“We are excited about and thankful for the support from these funders,” said James Sullivan, co-founder of LEO and the Rev. Thomas J. McDonagh, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Economics. “This will allow us to continue to create evidence that supports programs doing innovative work to serve the poor.”

NIH award

Jim Sullivan preferredJames Sullivan

Sullivan and William Evans, the Keough-Hesburgh Professor of Economics and LEO co-founder, have been leading a study of the Homelessness Prevention Call Center in Chicago. Run by Catholic Charities Chicago, HPCC takes an average of 70,000 calls per year from people on the verge of experiencing homelessness, but little had previously been done to understand the impact of providing emergency assistance to those at risk.

In a study published in the Aug. 12, 2016, edition of Science, Sullivan and Evans detailed how  for people facing dire housing circumstances, the emergency financial assistance provided  successfully prevents homelessness. The LEO co-founders, together with then-Notre Dame undergraduate research assistant Melanie Wallskog, examined the impact of financial assistance for 4,500 individuals and families who called HPCC between 2010 and 2012. 

They linked information from the call center to administrative data on entries to and exits from Chicago homelessness shelters. They found that people who called the hotline when funding was available were 76 percent less likely to enter a shelter — and were still significantly less likely to be homeless a year later.

Following the study in Science, LEO has now received two major awards to continue its research on emergency assistance. A $239,464 grant from the National Science Foundation will support study of the impact emergency assistance has on crime, while the $347,625 NIH grant will support research on the impact the assistance has on health. 

With call centers like HPCC processing more than 15 million calls each year, LEO’s research will allow policymakers to make more informed choices in directing limited resources to the most effective programs. 

Stay the Course

Bill Evans preferredWilliam Evans

LEO, a research lab housed in Notre Dame’s Department of Economics founded in 2012, has received $129,000 from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to support its efforts to rigorously measure the impact of an innovative program, Stay the Course, which utilizes specialized case management to support persistence and completion among low-income community college students.

LEO also received $540,000 from J-PAL North America, a regional office of the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to support work on several initiatives through the J-PAL State and Local Innovation Initiative. In Rochester, New York, LEO is working with the City of Rochester and several community agencies to evaluate the impact of a professional mentoring program, Bridges to Success, on the low-income clients it is designed to move permanently out of poverty.

As part of a $275,000 grant from The Kresge Foundation, Catholic Charities Fort Worth, which runs Stay the Course, will receive support to replicate it at additional sites across the country. Together, LEO’s extended evaluation and CCFW’s replication work will allow the program to impact more students to complete degrees and move to self-sufficiency. 

LEO and J-PAL have worked with the city and partners to embed a randomized control trial (RCT) evaluation in order to most accurately measure and demonstrate cause and effect of the program on the client’s outcomes, such as income, employment and self-sufficiency.

LEO is also partnering with two governments that were selected by J-PAL North America through the same State and Local Innovation Initiative. In King County, Washington, LEO is partnering with county officials to plan the evaluations of both a youth homelessness initiative as well as a diversion program for low-risk offenders.

In Santa Clara County, researchers will evaluate the county’s rapid rehousing program that aims to prevent homelessness and the ill effects of homelessness by providing immediate housing and support to at-risk populations. LEO and J-PAL will support the efforts of the county to measure the impact of the program and the cost effectiveness by conducting an RCT evaluation.