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Morris teaches courses within the multi-disciplinary field of “public policy”, including economics, policy analysis, and social justice theory. As a faculty member in public policy analysis, she engages primarily in applied research. Her broadly defined area of research and scholarship focuses on workforce dynamics, poverty and work, and work and family. The policy arenas in which her research matters include labor and welfare policy as well as work-place employment policies. She has conducted policy research and analysis for federal and state governments examining the impact of welfare reform policy changes and welfare-to-work programs, the factors related to retention, recruitment and turnover of direct care workers and health care workers in Maine. She was also the Principal Investigator for a large agency-wide employee survey for Maine’s newly merged Department of Health and Human Services examining job stress, job satisfaction and intent to stay/leave as well as commitment and cooperation with the Department’s merger and other organizational restructurings. Morris also received funding through the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management/National Survey of America’s Families’ Small Research Grants Program to study the stress effects of work among parents of children with special needs. She serves as a faculty advisor for the Maine Community Foundation’s Maine Policy Scholar program, a fellowship program for undergraduates in Maine.
"Welfare Reform and Working Poverty: Wage Rates, Wage Mobility, and Post-Exit Earnings for Welfare Recipients in North Carolina, 1995-1999" in Work, Welfare and Politics: Confronting Poverty in the Wake of Welfare Reform, edited by Frances Fox Piven, Joan Acker, Margaret Hallock, and Sandra Morgen (University of Oregon Press, 2002), 129-143.
Finds that most welfare recipients exited the rolls for low-paying part-time or temporary jobs. Not surprisingly, most continued to earn below poverty level wages even years after exiting welfare.
"The Impact of the Good Wheels Welfare-to-Work Program on Welfare Receipt, Employment Duration and Earnings Mobility," Bureau of Family Independence, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, 2004.
Shows, in a before-and-after analysis, that participants in a low-interest car loan program saw modest increases in earnings and decreases in public assistance. Analysis also showed that employment retention improved somewhat during the post-loan period. However, for the majority of program participants, the gains may not persist over time.
"Quits and Job Changes among Home Care Workers in Maine: The Role of Wages, Hours and Benefits" The Gerontologist 49, no. 5 (2009): 635-650.
Finds that improved work conditions and non-pecuniary rewards from work have significant negative effects on turnover intentions but not on actual turnover. Higher wages, more hours, and travel cost reimbursement are found to be significantly associated with reduced turnover. Wages and hours appear to have stronger effects although health benefits do appear to have some significance in predicting job-to-job transitions.
"Testing Respite Effect of Work on Stress among Mothers of Children with Special Needs" Journal of Family and Economics 33, no. 1 (2012).
Results produced are consistent with a caregiver-specific respite effect from work, at least among mother caregivers of older children who were not concerned that working will have negative effects on their child’s well-being and who worked regular shifts in higher level occupations.
"The Impact of Work on the Mental Health of Parents of Children with Disabilities." Family Relations, Special Issue 63, no. 1 (2014): 101-121.
Examines the impact of work on parents of children with disabilities. Finds a significant positive impact of work on the mental health of mothers but not fathers. Results also indicate that caregiver mothers who are experiencing high levels of parent-role stress benefit more from work, and that the beneficial effects from work persist until rather high levels of work.
"The Faltering Safety Net in a Reluctant Nation: Women’s Economic Security at Risk in America" (with ). Women’s Studies International Forum (2014).
Describes the U.S.'s long-standing ambivalence towards the safety net and its impact on women. Explores how “traditional” work and family norms, complicated by class and race, influence and shape design and delivery of safety net programs. Evaluates recent proposed changes to safety net programs and the impact on women.