LEO earns $700,000 in funding awards to support continued anti-poverty work

Author: Rachel Fulcher-Dawson

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The Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) at the University of Notre Dame has received multiple funding awards totaling nearly $700,000 this summer 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.”

Jim Sullivan preferredJames Sullivan

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.

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.

Bill Evans preferredWilliam Evans

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.

The funding awards follow a groundbreaking year for LEO research, as Sullivan and co-founder William Evans, the chair and Keough-Hesburgh Professor in the Department of Economics, had their study on a Chicago homelessness prevention call center published in Science. Evans also received significant media attention for new research on refugees, and Sullivan presented research on homelessness prevention at a briefing on Capitol Hill.  

Founded in 2012, LEO matches top researchers with social service providers to conduct impact evaluations that identify the innovative, effective and scalable programs and policies that support self-sufficiency. LEO's research is conducted by Notre Dame faculty as well as an interdisciplinary network of scholars from across the country with expertise in designing and evaluating the impact of domestic programs aimed at reducing poverty and improving lives. LEO disseminates its key findings to policymakers and front-line providers in order to support evidence-based policy and programming decisions that effectively and jointly reduce poverty in the United States.