Sarah Halpern-Meekin

Associate Professor of Human Development & Family Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Chapter Member: Wisconsin SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Sarah

Halpern-Meekin is a sociologist who uses qualitative and quantitative methods to study romantic relationships and low-income families’ finances, as well as government policies directed at both of these areas. Her research includes examining how social poverty—or lacking adequate relational resources—shapes people’s wellbeing and decisions; understanding the lives of prime-age men who are out of the labor force (neither working nor seeking a formal job); studying the role of relationship churning—on-again/off-again relationships; and following experience of mothers in poverty with unconditional cash transfers.

In the News

Opinion: "Let’s Make the Tax System Reflect Our Values," Sarah Halpern-Meekin, The Cap Times, April 16, 2022.


"Couple Disagreement in Reporting on Courtship Stages: Implications for Measurement and Marital Outcomes" (with Laura Tach). Social Science Research 42 (2013): 1143-1155.

Argues that disagreement in retrospective relationship reports is a potential indicator of a couple having "slid" into a more serious relationship because it may occur when a couple lacks clear symbols or turning points in the relationship. Finds that couple disagreement is associated with poorer marital outcomes, especially relationship satisfaction, partner supportiveness, and relationship happiness.

"It’s Not Like I’m Poor: How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World" (with Kathryn Edin, Laura Tach, and and Jennifer Sykes) (University of California Press, 2015).

Examines the costs and benefits of the new work-based safety net, suggesting ways to augment its strengths so that more of the working poor can realize the promise of a middle-class life.

"Relationship Churning, Physical Violence, and Verbal Abuse in Young Adult Relationships" (with Wendy Manning, Peggy Giordano, and and Monica Longmore). Journal of Marriage and Family 75 (2013): 2-12.

Uses data from the Toledo Adolescent Relationships Study to test whether relationship “churning” (breakup-reconcile patterns) is associated with more serious conflict, such as physical violence and verbal abuse. Churners (i.e., those involved in on/off relationships) were twice as likely as those who were stably together or stably broken up to report physical violence and half again as likely to report the presence of verbal abuse in their relationships, a finding with implications for better understanding of unhealthy relationship behaviors.

"Dignity and Dreams: What the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Means to Low-Income Families" (with Jennifer Sykes, Katrin Kriz, and and Kathryn Edin). American Sociological Review 80, no. 2 (2015).

Explores recipients’ beliefs about the EITC, finding that it enhances feelings of citizenship and social inclusion because it is understood as a just reward for work and a springboard to upward mobility.

"Heterogeneity in Two-Parent Families and Adolescent Well-Being" (with Laura Tach). Journal of Marriage and Family 70 (2008): 435-451.

Highlights the heterogeneity in two-parent families and examines how adolescents fare when they reside in simple two-parent, blended, and stepfamilies.