urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

Caroline Ratcliffe

Caroline Ratcliffe



Senior Fellow


"Government resources should be targeted at children who start life with the deck stacked against them. Little could be more important than helping babies born into poor families, half of whom will be poor for at least half their childhoods and are more likely to face economic hardship as adults."

Caroline Ratcliffe is an economist and expert in the asset building and poverty fields. Her research focuses on low-income families and underserved consumers, and she has published extensively on the role of emergency savings, homeownership, poverty dynamics, and welfare receipt.

Ratcliffe has conducted experimental and quasi-experimental analyses to estimate the effect of programs on low-income families. She is directing the evaluation of the MyAccountCard pilot, which aims to help low-income families avoid expensive refund anticipation loans and checks, move them into the financial mainstream, and accumulate savings.

Ratcliffe has written extensively on how welfare programs and state welfare policies affect low-income families’ benefit receipt and economic well-being, and has explored how poverty status at birth relates to childhood poverty persistence. She held previous positions at the Congressional Budget Office and Brookings Institution, and has been a visiting associate professor at Georgetown University, teaching in its public policy program.

Ph.D., Economics, Cornell University

Areas of expertise

poverty, safety net and work support programs, food assistance, asset building

Selected Publications from Caroline Ratcliffe

  • Prohibitions, Price Caps, and Disclosures: A Look at State Policies and Alternative Financial Product Use
  • Childhood Poverty Persistence: Facts and Consequences
  • Do Assets Help Families Cope with Adverse Events?
  • Publications by topic:
    Elderly
    Employment
    Workforce Development, Training and Opportunity
    Poverty and Safety Net
    TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)
    Welfare / Poverty Programs

    See all publications by Caroline Ratcliffe

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