Recent Projects

The Center for Social Policy is a research and evaluation think tank of choice for policy makers, funders, and business leaders focused on the root causes of poverty through the framework of economic security and economic advancement. 

Economic Security 

Economic Advancement

The Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Program of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

The Center for Social Policy has been commissioned to write a book chapter for The Local Economic and Employment Development (LEED) Program of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on employer engagement in profit-sharing programs for the service industry. The goal is to support policy makers and local practitioners in developing strategies to more effectively involve employers in the design and provision of employment and workforce development programs at the local level. The work will seek to identify good practices for employer engagement in the areas of both developing and utilizing skills, including setting up innovative workplace learning methods, designing effective employer partnerships with the employment service and training system and financing mechanisms for employer-led training. The book chapter will focus on on efforts to improve job quality, wages, and skills utilization through Open Book Management profit-sharing practices for Boston area restaurants

Primary Contact: Susan Crandall, Director

Integrating Resources to Strengthen Low-income Families Project: The Pilot Year

This project is a partnership of 9to5 National Association of Working Women (Linda Meric) with CSP’s Françoise Carré and Lisa Dodson (Institute for Children, Youth and Family Policy, Brandeis University and Boston College). Now in a 12-month pilot phase, this research and policy project aims to engage with, and learn from, low-income parents and their local allies towards strengthening and integrating safety net programs and workplace standards.

The project addresses a “new twist” to an old challenge; neither wages nor public supports have been sufficient to support low-income families. Recently, low-income families have been reporting even more difficulties with holding and keeping jobs as well as making use of public supports. An even newer twist is that as work schedules have become more irregular, people do not know when they will be called into work; they cannot count on steady work hours, resulting in additional challenges negotiating family care and budgets. In the national conversation on these challenges, the voices of women dealing with the situation day to day are often missing as well as are their input into how policy arguments are made.

The research will systematically document experiences and perspectives of low-income parents from three states—Colorado, Georgia and Massachusetts—who have engaged with low-wage jobs and public supports. It will draw on perspectives of parents through focus groups (directed by Dr. Dodson) and key informants directly involved in public assistance programs and workplace standards. CSP researchers will gather state-specific program data on TANF, child care, minimum wage, and paid leave, the information necessary to contribute to the analysis of focus groups. 9to5 will take the lead on cultivating networks of community-based allies in each state to root the project in local and state efforts, collaborate with other national networks and provide leadership on campaigns that bridge the welfare and work divide. This pilot project fits within a multi-year plan to expand and involve additional states in subsequent years.

"Integrating Resources to Strengthen Low-income Families –An Update from the Field",Project Document, May 2016
Authors: 9to5 National Association of Working Women, Lisa Dodson, and Françoise Carré

Primary Contact: Françoise Carré, Research Director

Health Impact Assessment of Boston’s Living Wage Ordinance

The Center for Social Policy has partnered with the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC), to evaluate the health impacts of the Boston Living Wage Ordinance. Funded through a Health Impact Project grant, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts with additional funding from the de Beaumont Foundation, the assessment will use stakeholder engagement, focus groups and key informant interviews as well as documentation of existing conditions of workers most likely to be affected. The 18-month evaluation will include an empirical analysis of existing data on a sub-group of current living wage workers and changes in health conditions attributable to improved wages. A report is expected in Fall 2015.

Primary Contacts: Randy Albelda, Senior Research Fellow
Brandynn Holgate, Research Associate

Just-A-Start Corporation Cambridge Biomedical Careers Program Evaluation

This study assesses the impacts of Just-A-Start Corporation’s (JAS) Cambridge Biomedical Careers Program (CBCP) in the Boston area and the state. Launched in 1991, the CBCP trains low- and moderate-income individuals for entry-level jobs in the biomedical and biotechnology fields. CSP’s study focuses on the program’s effectiveness including its individual- and systemic-level impacts.  

We report how graduates have fared in the labor market and measure the impact of the training program on graduates’ earnings in the short and longer term.  The report also provides measures of fiscal impacts of the program, through graduates’ improved earnings and tax contributions.  It also presents the perspectives of employers and recruiting intermediaries as well as those of graduates of the program.  Job projections for life science industries, the sources of potential jobs for graduates, are reviewed.

Just-A-Start’s BioMed program has enrolled about 30 students each year for 23 years. The current job placement rate for graduates is 72%. Many graduates move from frontline customer service jobs into biomanufacturing and laboratory technician positions. On average, and compared to jobs held at enrollment, program graduates earn an additional $14,778 a year after becoming employed in the biomedical field and contribute $1,735 more each year in state and federal taxes. Graduates often work with recruiters/staffing intermediaries to find their first job in the field. Industry projections show that BioMed program graduates work as technicians within a small, but steadily growing pool of jobs in Massachusetts.

The project was funded by the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center through a grant to JAS.

Full Report and Executive Summary

Primary Contacts: Françoise Carré, Research Director
Brandynn Holgate, Senior Research Associate

 On Solid Ground: Building Opportunity, Preventing Homelessness

The Center for Social Policy is the lead research partner to the On Solid Ground Coalition--a cross-sector group of 40+ partners committed to a research-based approach to increasing housing stability and economic mobility for low-income families living in Massachusetts. The On Solid Ground work is rooted in a four-pronged approach:

  1. Systems Change: build a coordinated service delivery system across government departments to support homelessness prevention, minimize cliff effects, and provide integrated case management services.
  2. Housing: expand the affordable housing stock and rental assistance vouchers for extremely low-income households; preserve existing privately and publicly subsidized homes; and improve public housing.
  3. Supportive Services: invest in services that provide a path to increased incomes and economic mobility for extremely low-income families.
  4. Tracking Progress: collect and analyze data, and track progress – at state agencies and their nonprofit partners – toward an agreed upon set of goals related to housing stability and economic mobility.

Primary contact: Marija Bingulac, On Solid Ground Senior Project Manager and Research Associate

Moving Home Program on Housing Retention Outcomes: Evaluation Study 

The Center for Social Policy is carrying out an analysis of data on the housing situation of participants in the Moving Home program in New York City. The aim of the study is to draw lessons from this NYC-based experience for other homeless service programs in Massachusetts and elsewhere.  The project is a partnership with the Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC), a provider of housing and services to thousands of needy individuals, focusing on effective and efficient strategies to end the cycle of homelessness in NYC. BRC’s Moving Home initiative applies an individualized, low-threshold model to transitioning chronically homeless men and women from the streets to permanent housing.

Primary contact: Françoise Carré, Research Director

New Lease for Homeless Families: Evaluation Study

CSP is as the  evaluation partner for the New Lease for Homeless Families’ pilot program—a unique initiative that brings together multiple stakeholders in homelessness prevention in Massachusetts: a group of affordable housing owners offering between 10-15% of their vacant units per year to families coming out of motels, hotels and shelters, and New Lease, a new not-for-profit organization connecting the units to homeless families and partnering with the Department of Housing and Community Development and nonprofit service providers to support the families as they transition to permanent housing. This evaluation will measure specific outcomes related to this intervention model and how it may change the larger systems of reducing family homelessness in Massachusetts. 

Primary contacts: Marija Bingulac, Research Associate

Reinforcing the Safety Net: A Collaborative Survey of the Massachusetts Nonprofit Sector

This study examines how nonprofit organizations engage with public policy issues and actors. The project is a partnership with the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network, a statewide membership organization dedicated to building the capacity of the nonprofit sector. The research is supported by funding from a University of Massachusetts Public Service Grant which is intended to facilitate collaborative research partnerships and community engaged scholarship.

Primary contact: Heather MacIndoe, Faculty Affiliate

Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare Foundation Evaluation
Beginning in 2012, the Center for Social Policy is serving as a multi-year evaluation partner to several initiatives of the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation; the center's work is focused on generating solid evidence as to the extent and ways in which the foundation's initiatives—Growing Up Healthy, Culture InSight, and Community Connections—contribute to its goals.

Primary contact: Terry Saunders Lane, Senior Research Fellow

Informing Eos Foundation's Anti-hunger Initiative
In April 2012, the Eos Foundation commissioned research to inform its decision making from the Center for Social Policy, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), and the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI). The research addresses understanding how the food assistance programs work in Massachusetts and identifies places—leverage points—where improvements to the programs might be usefully introduced through strategic use of the foundation's philanthropic funds.

Research findings
Food assistance programs in Massachusetts
Massachusetts School Meal Data

Primary contact: Marija Bingulac, Research Associate

Thrive in Five Initiative
Led by the Center for Social Policy, a team of UMass Boston researchers was the external evaluator for Thrive-in-5 Boston. As part of the initiative, the Center helped to identify, implement, and evaluate community interventions designed to increase the readiness of Boston children for success in school at kindergarten age.  UMass Boston was a thought partner, providing real time feedback for immediate use by the community partners to inform their practice. The research team used progress indicators and context data to monitor Boston’s progress toward achieving school readiness,  focusing evaluation on impact and outcomes.

Primary contacts: Susan Crandall, Director

The Boston Foundation's Fairmount Initiative
2010-2015, CSP has been the Boston Foundation’s Fairmount Strategy learning and evaluation partner. Our evaluation and learning efforts focused on the Foundation’s Fairmount Strategy as a whole, on Boston LISC’s Resilient Communities/Resilient Families (RC/RF) Initiative and on the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) Program.  

At the Fairmount strategy level, the learning plan was designed to inform the next stages of TBF’s investments and activities along the Fairmount Corridor, tracking TBF’s contribution to transformative strategies and/or approaches aimed at changing the life trajectories for low income children/families and their neighborhoods. 

At the program level, the CSP evaluation activities were designed to understand the implementation of the RC/RF and FSS projects in the corridor, including their procedural accomplishments and challenges, community building and relevant family outcomes, and the role of neighborhood context. 

Primary contacts: Marija Bingulac, Research Associate
Brandynn Holgate, Research Associate

Closing the Gap on Healthcare Disparities
With funding from the Blue Cross Blue Shield  Foundation of Massachusetts, the Center for Social Policy evaluated healthcare disparity interventions taking place throughout Massachusetts by identifying outcomes from the experience of 11 coalitions of community organizations, health care providers, and consumers.  

Primary contacts:
Mary Coonan
Terry Saunders Lane, Senior Research Fellow

Alternative Staffing Organizations: Outcomes for Job Candidates and Customer Employers
Alternative Staffing Organizations (ASOs), operated by community-based agencies, integrate the business goal of mainstream staffing services—connecting workers and employers—with the social mission of helping marginalized job seekers find and retain better jobs. Over the period from 2008-11, the Center for Social Policy studied the activities of four ASOs which were part of the Charles Stewart Mott Alternative Staffing Demonstration II. The study explored employment outcomes for workers as well as the motivations of customer businesses.

ASOs participating in the research included First Source Staffing, Emerge Staffing, Goodwill Staffing Services-Austin and Goodwill Temporary Staffing-Suncoast. This study was funded by the C. S. Mott Foundation. (See Finding the Right Fit: How Alternative Staffing Affects Worker Outcomes)

Primary contact: Françoise Carré, Research Director

Bridging the Gaps Project

Bridging the Gaps was a multiyear project let by the Center for Social Policy and the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, DC., in partnership with organizations in nine states and District of Columbia.  In Massachusetts, CSP led the research and dissemination  activities and collaborated with advisors on the project. At the national level, CSP collaborated with CEPR in national outreach activities and analysis of qualitative data generated by state level partners.

The  project had three important research goals surrounding low-wage workers and work support programs intended to help them  get and keep employment. The first goal was to assess the size of the “hardship gap” the difference between resources (earnings plus benefits) and the costs low-income families face. The second goal was to examine the “eligibility gap” by measuring the actual utilization of work-support benefits among eligible benefits. The third goal was to understand the difficulties low-income workers who do use work-support benefits face and the strategies they use in trying to make ends meet.

(See Bridging the Gaps Between Earnings and Basic Needs in Massachusetts; Bridging the Gaps: “A Picture of How Work Supports Work in Ten States”; and Bridging the Gaps: Structuring Benefits to Promote Mobility for Low Wage Workers).

Primary contact: Randy Albelda, Senior Research Fellow

Informal Employment in Developed and Developing Countries
As part of a collaboration with the global research and action network WIEGO (Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing), Françoise Carré is preparing analysis and papers on informal (casual, temporary) employment in developed countries, as well as participating in field exposures with poor informal workers in India, Mexico, and South Africa. The research focuses on the relationships between informal employment and poverty.   Writings from this project can be found under Reports and Staff Publications.

Primary contact: Françoise Carré, Research Director

Poverty in Massachusetts - May 2011 Fact Sheets
Using American Community Survey five-year data, the Center for Social Policy has created eight one-page fact sheets on poverty in the Massachusetts. Each provides poverty figures by particular demographic groups: age, gender, race, ethnicity, education level, nativity, and family status. The data compare Massachusetts rates to those in the US, by analyzing the distribution of the whole population and the total poor population by the demographic category. Finally, the fact sheets highlight the poverty rate in the ten largest Massachusetts cities.

Primary contact: Randy Albelda, Senior Research Fellow

Family-to-Family Project Evaluation
The Family-to Family Project (FtF) commissioned the Center for Social Policy to evaluate its Family Homelessness Prevention Program during the period 2011-13.  Through this initiative, FtF provides one-time cash grants of $500 - $3600 to 225 families who are at risk of losing their homes. Three partner agencies (Project Hope, Home Start, and Travelers Aid) refer candidate families to FtF for assistance and provide wrap around services such as case management. The intention of the project is to support families to maintain their housing stability with modest cash assistance and to generate solid evidence of the efficacy of this approach for preventing homelessness.

Primary contacts:
Mary Coonan
Terry Saunders Lane, Senior Research Fellow

Retail Work Around the Globe
The retail industry is being transformed by dramatic market shifts and rapid technological change. To better understand the consequences of these changes for the entry level workforce, this project explores schedules, compensation, turnover and retention, training, service levels, and product knowledge in the frontline workforce in the food and consumer electronics sectors. The project examines retail jobs and firm strategies in using cross-national perspective—US, Western Europe, Mexico— paying particular attention to differences in national institutional settings and how these impact job quality.

The study is led by CSP's Research Director Françoise Carré and Chris Tilly, economist and director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Work and Employment. Building upon an earlier study of the US retail trade, this project entails two components:

  • The preparation of a manuscript titled “Retail Work Round the Globe” with support from the Russell Sage Foundation and the UMass Boston Healey Research Grant program.
  • A study titled “Short hours, long hours, flexible hours: Hours levels and hours adjustments in the retail industry in the United States, Canada, and Mexico” with support from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research Policy Research Grant program.

(see also Continuity and Change in Low-wage Work in U.S. Retail Trade (2008)

Primary contact: Françoise Carré, Research Director

Evaluation of Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP)
The Center for Social Policy has been retained by the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership to evaluate its efforts funded by the Federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) to provide housing for families experiencing homelessness. Lessons learned, both in terms of program features and family outcomes, will inform the Massachusetts HomeBase program, the successor to HPRP.

Primary contacts:
Tim Davis
Terry Saunders Lane, Senior Research Fellow

Center for Social Policy

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