Understanding the causes and consequences of socioeconomic inequality in the U.S. is the focus of a new University of California, Irvine Organized Research Unit. Under the auspices of the Center for Population, Inequality, and Policy, 26 faculty representing five schools and units on campus will study widening gaps in economic, educational, health, and other outcomes among the U.S. population, and in other countries. Research within the center will serve as a guide for policies and other strategies designed to improve well-being - including employment, education, health, housing, and income - of the less advantaged.

"Our goal for the Center for Population, Inequality, and Policy is to help move UCI to the forefront of population research, with a particular emphasis on the sources of inequality and public policies designed to address them," says co-director David Neumark, Distinguished Professor of economics in the School of Social Sciences. Neumark was recently awarded a two-year, $156,000 grant from the Alfred Sloan Foundation to support his research on age discrimination in the employee hiring process.

“Societal issues such as growing inequality in health and education require innovative approaches to understanding their root causes and devising policy responses,” says co-director Tim Bruckner, associate professor in the Program in Public Health who pursues research on maternal and child health. “The Center for Population, Inequality, and Policy gives us the structure to bring together researchers from across campus who are making strides in key areas - health, aging, education, and others – that can help us better explain and alleviate inequality.” 

Additional emphases of research within the center include:

  • Parental citizenship and its impact on child health and well-being;
  • Mass incarceration’s effect on fertility, mortality, and morbidity among U.S. populations with highest risk of criminal justice contact;
  • Children’s performance in reading, math, and science and ties to inequality;
  • School-entry skills and behaviors that affect later academic achievement and attainment; and
  • Prisoner reentry and consequences of criminal justice contact for employment, mental health, and political participation.

Designation as a UCI ORU provides a center with a supportive infrastructure for interdisciplinary research spanning more than one school. With the establishment of the Center for Population, Inequality, and Policy, there are now 16 ORUs on campus.

“Growing inequality is among the most pressing challenges in many parts of the world including the U.S. The establishment of the Center for Population, Inequality, and Policy at UCI will bring faculty from many disciplines to work together to develop deeper understanding of various aspects of this topic in an increasingly diverse population and public policy interventions that would move society toward shared prosperity and well-being,” says Pramod Khargonekar, UCI vice chancellor for research.

UCI affiliations with the Center for Population, Inequality, and Policy include the Program in Public Health; the School of Education; the Department of Earth System Science in the School of Physical Sciences; the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and Department of Psychological Science in the School of Social Ecology; and the Department of Economics and Department of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences.

-Heather Ashbach, UCI School of Social Sciences

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