My research interest lies in the economic well-being of families and households. For the past decade, I have been the Massachusetts P.I. for a 10-year multi-state, multi-disciplinary study on rural poverty, NC 223/NC1011, “Rural Low-Income Families: Tracking Their Well-Being and Functioning in the Context of Welfare Reform,” (for a complete project description, see http://www.cehd.umn.edu/FSoS/projects/ruralspeak/description.asp). The goal of this project is to understand the many complexities faced by rural low-income families within the context of their communities. Poverty is disproportionately higher and more persistent in rural areas than in urban areas and problems of unemployment, underemployment, and lower wages make it more difficult for the rural poor to escape poverty. Currently, my research focuses, specifically, on five areas involving low-income rural mothers: their labor supply decisions, their use of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), their coping ability in light of persistent food insecurity, their satisfaction with life, and their poverty dynamics.
The current economic downturn has revealed the importance of emphasizing the human element when it comes to financial decision-making whether spending, saving, consumption, or the ability of households to cope in the face of economic uncertainty. These family economic issues also have public policy implications. As more and more families, regardless of income level, face unemployment and financial uncertainty, those who are already at the bottom of the economic ladder become even more vulnerable. It is the economic issues confronting these households and families that I address through my scholarship.