Patricia Ruggles is a nonresident fellow at the Urban Institute and an economist with a long-standing interest in data and economic measurement, focusing on income distribution and programs serving low-income people. The microdata model of the distribution of government expenditures across US households that she developed for her PhD thesis was an early example of the combined use of aggregate and micro-level household data. After completing her graduate work, Ruggles joined the Congressional Budget Office to work on Social Security and welfare program issues. She then moved to the Urban Institute, where she continued her research on the low-income population and developed an innovative approach to poverty measurement.
After finishing her book on poverty measurement, Ruggles joined the Joint Economic Committee, where she was the senior analyst for health and welfare issues and later staff director. Ruggles interrupted her congressional career in 1997 to become deputy assistant secretary for human services and chief economist of the US Department of Health and Human Services. After leaving the Congress in 2003, Ruggles taught at Georgetown University and then joined the staff of the National Academy of Sciences. In 2008, she left to cofound Orlin Research Inc., which creates systems to improve data preparation and dissemination for government statistics and databases.
Ruggles joined NORC at the University of Chicago in 2013, where she worked on issues in data quality and measurement and continued her research on the economic well-being of low-income people, followed by a brief consultancy at the National Science Foundation.