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Nisha G. Patel
Institute Fellow
Former employee
My goal is to generate great ideas and move them into action, with a focus on solutions that create economic opportunity in the United States.

Nisha Patel is an Institute fellow and executive director of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty at the Urban Institute. Supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the partnership is a nonpartisan group of leaders, experts, and practitioners working to identify promising interventions to make real, lasting progress against persistent poverty in America.

Patel has nearly two decades of experience leading, developing, and implementing initiatives to increase economic opportunities for low-income families. She served in the Obama administration as director of the Office of Family Assistance within the US Department of Health and Human Services, overseeing a $17 billion annual portfolio of federal grants, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Patel was previously deputy director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, where she led national efforts to expand two-generation approaches to improve outcomes for children and their parents. Before that, Patel was a program officer in the US Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she managed a portfolio focused on increasing postsecondary success through community partnerships and policy development, as well as special initiatives.

Patel previously held positions as director of programs at Washington Area Women’s Foundation and senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy. She has also been an adjunct professor at the George Washington University.

Patel is a graduate of Vanderbilt University and holds an MSW with a concentration in social and economic development from Washington University in St. Louis.

Research Areas
Wealth and financial well-being
Nonprofits and philanthropy
Social safety net
Race and equity
Inequality and mobility
Job markets and labor force
Racial barriers to accessing the safety net
Racial equity in education