Luke Shaefer

Luke Shaefer

Associate Professor of Social Work and Public Policy, University of Michigan
Research Affiliate, National Poverty Center
Chapter Member: Michigan SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Luke

Shaefer's research focuses on the effectiveness of public programs in the U.S. in serving low-wage workers and economically disadvantaged families. His recent work explores the impact of food stamps participation on non-food household material hardship, barriers to unemployment insurance faced by low-educated workers, and the rise of extreme poverty in the U.S.


The Ryan Budget and Michigan: A Few Win, but Millions Lose

  • Luke Shaefer

$2-a-Day Poverty in the United States

  • Kathryn Edin

In the News

Opinion: "Medicaid Work Bill Could Hurt, Not Help, People Who Want to Work," Luke Shaefer (with Marianne Udow-Phillips and Megan Foster Friedman), Detroit Free Press, April 30, 2018.
Quoted by Jack Lessenberry in "Michigan's Legislature is Punishing the Poor," Michigan Radio, April 19, 2018.
Interviewed in " History Proves That Solving Poverty Requires More than Just a Silver Bullet," Michigan Radio, February 19, 2018.
Research discussed by Jack Lessenberry, in "Over 50 Years after the War on Poverty, it's Time to Find a Solution," Michigan Radio, January 8, 2018.
Research discussed by Rachel Cunningham, in "Poverty Solutions Creates an Interactive Map to Display Poverty Levels by County across Michigan," The Michigan Daily, January 2, 2018.
Research discussed by Jack Lessenberry, in "Michigan’s Actions Snapshot of Society’s Attitude toward Poor," The Blade, January 13, 2017.
Guest on Michigan Public Radio, January 3, 2017.
Opinion: "Twenty Years Since Welfare 'Reform'," Luke Shaefer (with Kathryn Edin), The Atlantic, August 22, 2016.
Quoted by Robert Pear in "Political Rifts over Bill Clinton’s Welfare Law Resurface as Aid Shrinks," New York Times, May 20, 2016.
Quoted by Max Ehrenfreund in "Bernie Sanders is Right: Bill Clinton’s Welfare Law Doubled Extreme Poverty," The Washington Post, February 27, 2016.
Research discussed by Renée Loth, in "Millions are Living on $2 a Day - Yes, in the United States," Cognoscenti, November 13, 2015.
Research discussed by Julia M. Klein, in "What is It Like to Live on '$2.00 a Day'? New Book Examines Deep Poverty in the U.S.," Los Angeles Times, October 2, 2015.
Quoted by Zeeshan Aleem in "Here's What It's Like Trying to Survive on Less than $2 a Day in America," Mic, September 24, 2015.
Research discussed by Jared Bernstein, in "America's Poorest are Getting Virtually No Assistance," The Atlantic, September 6, 2015.
Interviewed in "This is What It's Like to Live on $2 a Day," Huffington Post, September 3, 2015.
Opinion: "Living on $2 a Day in America," Luke Shaefer, Los Angeles Times, September 3, 2015.
Research discussed by William Julius Wilson, in "‘$2.00 a Day,’ by Kathryn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer," New York Times, September 2, 2015.
Research discussed by Dylan Matthews, in "Selling Plasma to Survive: How over a Million American Families Live on $2 per Day," Vox, September 2, 2015.
Quoted by Anjali Shastry in "Sociologists: Increasing Aid to Needy Families Would Break Jobless Cycle," Washington Times, September 1, 2015.
Opinion: "Blood Plasma, Sweat, and Tears," Luke Shaefer, The Atlantic, September 1, 2015.
Opinion: "The Truth about Food Stamps (Hint: They Work and Help Millions)," Luke Shaefer, New Republic, July 29, 2014.
Opinion: "Give Thanks for Food Stamps. They Work.," Luke Shaefer, Bangor Daily News, November 26, 2013.
Opinion: "Cutting Earned Income Tax Credit Holds Hidden Costs," Luke Shaefer, Detroit Free Press, May 14, 2011.
Opinion: "Michigan Can’t Afford Social Service Cuts," Luke Shaefer, The Detroit News, October 1, 2009.


"Participation in Unemployment Insurance: Differences in Application Rates and Receipt among Applicants by Education and Race and Ethnicity," (with A. Gould-Werth), National Poverty Center, 2011.
Finds that low-educated workers are less likely to apply for unemployment insurance than high-educated workers, and less likely to receive it, if they do apply.
"Unemployment Insurance and Low-Educated, Single, Working Mothers before and after Welfare Reform" (with Liyun Wu). Social Service Review 85, no. 2 (2011): 205-228.
Argues that unemployment insurance has not become a stronger support for low-educated single working mothers in the years since the 1996 welfare reform. Suggests that SNAP (food stamps) is a strong support for these mothers.
"Extreme Poverty in the United States, 1996 to 2011," National Poverty Center, 2012.
Finds that the number and proportion of households with children living on $2 or less, per person, per day rose considerably between 1996 and 2011, even after accounting for food stamps. This growth was concentrated among sub-groups that were particularly impacted by the 1996 welfare reform.
"Transitions from Private to Public Health Coverage among Children: Estimating Effects on Out-of-Pocket Medical Costs and Health Insurance Premium Costs" (with Colleen M. Grogan and Harold A. Pollack). Health Services Research 46, no. 3 (2011): 840-858.
Argues that transitions from private to public health insurance among children yield significant financial benefit to families, who disproportionately have children in relatively poor health.
"Covered Today, Sick Tomorrow? Trends and Correlates of Children’s Health Insurance Instability" (with H.D. Hill). Medical Care Research and Review 68, no. 5 (2011): 523-536.
Finds that the health insurance coverage of U.S. children has growth more volatile in recent years. There is a strong association between this volatility and economic shocks experienced by the families of these children, including job loss and marital dissolution.
"$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America" (with Kathryn Edin) ( Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015).
Illuminates a troubling trend: a low-wage labor market that increasingly fails to deliver a living wage, and a growing but hidden landscape of survival strategies among America’s extreme poor. Delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality.
"Expanding the Discourse on Antipoverty Policy: Reconsidering a Negative Income Tax" (with Jessica Wiederspana and Elizabeth Rhodes). Journal of Poverty 19, no. 2 (2015): 218-238.
Proposes that advocates for the poor consider the replacement of the current means-tested safety net in the United States with a Negative Income Tax. Highlights gaps in service provision that leave millions in poverty, explains how a NIT could help fill those gaps, and compares current expenditures on major means-tested programs to estimated expenditures necessary for a NIT. Addresses the financial and political concerns that are likely to arise in the event that a NIT proposal gains traction among policy makers.