research projects

glasses no logoIn graduate school, I used survey data and in-depth qualitative interviews to examine how social programs and policies affect people’s lives. During that time I authored  several policy briefs– on UI in collaboration with NELP, and employment problems and material hardship with NPC.  I co-authored this piece for Talking Points Memo with Alex Hertel-Fernandez.

Today, I spend most of my time connecting the work of other academics to policy conversations, though I have continued a mixed methods line of research on transportation insecurity.

Below are abstracts and links for my academic papers: 


Developing a New Measure of Transportation Insecurity: An Exploratory Factor Analysis / with Jamie Griffin and Alex Murphy

Scholarship recognizes that problems with transportation have important consequences for individual well-being and life chances. Yet no single measure exists that captures the multiple manifestations of transportation insecurity, a condition in which one is unable to regularly move from place to place in a safe and timely manner because one lacks the resources necessary for transportation. Using an original survey of 511 respondents from GfK’s KnowledgePanel®, we use exploratory factor analysis to estimate an initial factor structure, a step toward developing a new measure of transportation insecurity: the Transportation Security Index. Our results suggest that a two-factor solution best fits the data, and item content suggests that the factors represent the material and relational manifestations of transportation insecurity, respectively.

After the Rainy Day: How Private Resources Shape Personal Trajectories following Job Loss and Amplify Racial Inequality

Using data from in-depth interviews with a diverse group of people who lost jobs between 2007 and 2011, my study identifies the important role of private resource banks—reserves of personal resources such as assets and social connections amassed during more favorable times—following job loss. Without these resources, job losers are unable to move past the struggle to survive and onto recovery (through reemployment, comfortable labor market exit, or buffered labor market failure). Because private resources are unequally distributed by race, Black respondents are less able to leverage these resources toward recovery than their White counterparts. These results suggest that job loss may be a turning point in the life course—like incarceration, childbirth, and eviction—in which racial inequality is magnified and reproduced.

Workplace Experiences and Unemployment Insurance Claims: How Personal Relationships and the Structure of Work Shape Access to Public Benefits 

What influences whether unemployed individuals take up Unemployment Insurance (UI)? For answers to this question, research on the take-up of public benefits has looked to the individual, government social programs, and their interactions. This study shows that workplace context also plays a prominent role in UI take-up. Using data from 45 qualitative interviews with a diverse group of workers who experienced job loss between 2007 and 2011, this study documents how the interpersonal climate at work prior to job loss, the environmental context at the time of job loss, and the structural arrangement of work interact with employee characteristics to impede or facilitate benefit access in a distinct manner. Although further research is necessary to fully understand employer behavior, the results suggest that changes to employer incentives and behavior have the potential to facilitate access to UI.

Unemployment Insurance participation by Race and Ethnicity/ with H.Luke Shaefer

Less than half of unemployed workers receive Unemployment Insurance benefits. In this paper we examine patterned variation by education attainment and race and ethnicity in application for and receipt of UI benefits among applicants. We use the Current Population Survey (CPS) March 2005 UI non-filers supplement to examine whether unemployed workers apply for UI, whether applicants receive UI, and why non-applicants fail to apply, stratifying the sample by educational attainment and race and ethnicity. We find that the low-educated unemployed are significantly less likely to both apply for and receive UI if they do apply, than their college-educated counterparts. While we find no statistically significant differences between Black and White non-Hispanic unemployed workers, we find that Hispanics are less likely both to apply for and to receive UI if they do apply, when compared to White Non-Hispanics. Low-educated non-filers are far more likely than high-educated non-filers to perceive themselves as ineligible, and to attribute their ineligibility to not working or earning enough.

Do Alternative Base Periods Increase Unemployment Insurance Receipt Among Low-Educated Unemployed Workers? / with H. Luke Shaefer

Unemployment Insurance (UI) is the major social insurance program that protects against lost earnings resulting from involuntary unemployment. Existing literature finds that low-earning unemployed workers experience difficulty accessing UI benefits. The most prominent policy reform designed to increase rates of monetary eligibility, and thus UI receipt, among these unemployed workers is the Alternative Base Period (ABP). In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act sought to increase use of the ABP, making ABP adoption a necessary precondition for states to receive their share of the $7 billion targeted at UI programs. By January 2013, 40 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the ABP despite the absence of an evaluation of ABP efficacy using nationally representative data. This study analyzes Current Population Survey data from 1987 to 2011 to assess the efficacy of the ABP in increasing UI receipt among low-educated unemployed workers. We used a natural-experiment design to capture the combined behavioral and mechanical effects of the policy change. We found no association between state-level ABP adoption and individual UI receipt for all unemployed workers. However, among part-time unemployed workers with less than a high school degree, adoption of the ABP was associated with a 2.8 percentage point increase in the probability of UI receipt.

Supported from both sides? Changes in the dynamics of joint participation in SNAP and UI following the Great Recession / with H. Luke Shaefer

This paper uses panel data from the nationally representative Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) from years 2000-2011, to examine changes in the prevalence and character of joint participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Unemployment Insurance (UI) among job losers during the Great Recession. Descriptive as well as multivariate analyses are presented. Descriptive statistics examining changes following the onset of the Great Recession indicate heightened use of Unemployment Insurance and Food Stamps/Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a change in the sequencing of program entrance with joint participants becoming less likely to access SNAP first, and the composition of the group joint participants becoming more advantaged across a range of demographic characteristics.

Our multivariate results suggest that the extended length of unemployment spells following the onset of the Great Recession drives much of the increase in joint participation. The extension of UI benefits and the liberalization of SNAP eligibility requirements account for the remaining increase in joint participation. These results suggest that our safety net programs have been responsive to a changed macroeconomic context and changing needs of the target populations of UI and SNAP. However, the fact that following the onset of the recession the demographic characteristics of joint participants reflect a more advantaged population–while other research demonstrates that the bulk of those experiencing unemployment following the Great Recession are less advantaged–suggests that, in terms of joint participation, the safety net is most flexible in responding to the needs of its more advantaged constituents.


Scholars interested in accessing the qualitative data used in my work should feel free to get in touch with me at