Core faculty

Luke Shaefer

Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy; Director, Poverty Solutions; Professor of Social Work

H. Luke Shaefer, Ph.D. is the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy and Professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. At U-M, he is also the inaugural director of Poverty Solutions, an interdisciplinary, presidential initiative that partners with communities and policymakers to find new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty.

Shaefer is one of the nation’s leading scholars of poverty and social welfare policy. His research has been published in top peer-reviewed academic journals in the fields of public policy, public health, health services research, sociology, social work, and history, and his work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and U.S. Census Bureau among other sources. He has presented his research at the White House and before numerous federal agencies, has testified before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, and has advised a number of the nation’s largest human service providers.

His work has been cited in media outlets such as the New York TimesWashington PostThe Economist, and The Atlantic, and he has been featured on such programs as PBS NewsHourMarketplace, 1A, All Things Considered, and CNBC’s Nightly Business Report. His book with Kathryn Edin, $2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America, was named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2015 by the New York Times Book Review, and won the Hillman Prize for Book Journalism among other awards.

Shaefer’s new co-authored book, The Injustice of Place, has been featured on MSNBC, The Atlantic, TIME, and the LA Times, among other outlets. He is the co-director of Rx Kids, the nation’s first citywide maternal and infant health cash prescription program launched in Flint, Michigan in January 2024. Through Poverty Solutions, Shaefer acted as a special counselor on anti-poverty policy to the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services from 2019-2021.

Shaefer received his B.A. in politics from Oberlin College and A.M. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration. He is the recipient of an Andrew Carnegie Fellowship.

Honors and awards

  • 2022 - University of Michigan President’s Award for Public Engagement
  • 2020 - Andrew Carnegie Fellowship
  • 2020 - Poverty Solutions awarded the Social Equity Award by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration
  • 2018 - University of Michigan Faculty Recognition Award
  • 2017 - Best Scholarly Book of the Year for $2.00 a Day (with Edin), the Society for Social Work and Research
  • 2017 - Named a “torch recipient” as a top leader under forty in the field of social insurance, National Academy of Social Insurance
  • 2016 - Hillman Prize for Book Journalism for $2.00 a Day (with Edin), the Sidney Hillman Foundation
  • 2016 - Elizabeth Butler Award for Recent Graduates who have Shown Exceptional Promise, School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago
  • 2016 - Finalist for Annual Literary Award for Adult Nonfiction Books for $2.00 a Day (with 2016 Edin), the Society for Midland Authors
  • 2016 - Named to Shortlist for the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize for $2.00 a Day (with Edin), Columbia School of Journalism and Nieman Foundation at Harvard University
  • 2015 - $2.00 a Day (with Edin) named one of the 100 Notable Books of 2015 by The New York Times Book Review
  • 2013 - Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award, Society for Social Work and Research
  • 2013 - Professor of the Year, University of Michigan School of Social Work Student Union    
  • 2011 - Visiting Fellow, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University    
  •  2010 - L.R. Klein Award for Best 2009 Monthly Labor Review Article by an Author outside of the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  •  2009 - Best Abstract Award, AcademyHealth Annual Research Meeting


Recent publications

* Indicates student collaborator


  • Edin, K., Shaefer, H.L., Nelson, T. (2023). The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America. New York: Harper Collins,.
  • Edin, K. & Shaefer, H.L. (2015). $2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 
    • Reviewed in The Atlantic, The American Prospect, Booklist, The Chicago Tribune “Printers Row,” Kirkus Reviews, The Boston Globe, Mother Jones Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, New York Review of Books, The New York Times, Publishers Weekly (starred), and Social Service Review.
    • Excerpted in The Atlantic and Salon

Journal Articles & Book Chapters

  • Edin K. & Shaefer, H.L. (forthcoming). Poverty Measurement in the 21st Century: Triangulating from Imperfect Metrics. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity.
  • Duffy, M.* & Shaefer, H.L. (forthcoming). In the Aftermath of the Storm: Administrative Burden in Disaster Recovery. Social Service Review.
  • Jacob, B., Pilkauskas, N., Rhodes, E., Richard, K.* & Shaefer, H.L. (2022). The COVID cash transfer study II: The hardship and mental health impacts of an unconditional cash transfer to low-income individuals. National Tax Journal, The Forum on Basic Income.
  • Evangelist, M.* Wu, P.* & Shaefer, H.L. (2022). Emergency Unemployment Benefits and Health Care Spending During COVID. Health Services Research, 57(1), 15-26.
  • Fusaro, V., Shaefer, H.L. & Simington, J.* (2021). Communities Moving Ahead, Falling Behind: Evidence from the Index of Deep Disadvantage. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 695(1), 292-312.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Edin, K. (forthcoming). Extreme Poverty among Households with Children since the 1996 Welfare Law. In Grusky, David, Nima Dahir, and Claire Daviss. 2022. Social Stratification. 5th Edition. New York: Routledge.
  • Ochoa, A.*, Shaefer, H.L. & Grogan-Kaylor, A. (2021). The Interlinkage between Blood Plasma Donation and Poverty. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 48(2), article 4.
  • Shaefer, H.L., Fusaro, V.*, Wu, P.* & Edin, K. (2020). The Decline of Cash Assistance and the Well-Being of Poor Households with Children. Social Forces, 98(3), 1000-1025.
  • Evangelist, M.* & Shaefer, H.L. (2020). No Place Called Home: Student Homelessness and Structural Explanations. Social Service Review, 94(1), 4-35.
    • Selected as a finalist for the 2021 Frank R. Breul Memorial Prize for best article published in Social Service Review.
  • Rodems, R.* & Shaefer, H.L. (2020). Many of the Kids Are Not Alright: Material Hardship in the United States. Children and Youth Services Review, 112(May).
  • Fusaro, V., Levy, H., & Shaefer, H.L. (2018). Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Lifetime Prevalence of Homelessness in the United States. Demography, 55(6), 2119-2128.
  • Shaefer H.L., Lapidos, A., Wilson, R.* & Danziger, S.K. (2018). Associations of Income and Adversity in Childhood with Adult Health and Wellbeing. Social Service Review, 92(1), 69- 92.
  • Shaefer, H.L., Collyer, S., Duncan, G., Edin, K., Garfinkel, I., Harris, D., Smeeding, T., Waldfogel, J., Wimer, C. & Yoshikawa, H. (2018). A Universal Child Allowance: A Plan to Reduce Poverty and Income Instability among Children in the United States. RSF: A Journal of the Social Sciences.
  • Allard, S.W., Wathen, M.V., Shaefer, H.L., Danziger, S.K. (2017). Neighborhood Food Infrastructure and Food Security in Metropolitan Detroit. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 51(3), 566-597.
  • Shaefer, H.L., Wu, P.*, & Edin, K. (2017). Can Poverty in America be Compared to Conditions in the World’s Poorest Countries? American Journal of Medical Research 4(1), 84-92.
  • Lapidos, A., Shaefer, H.L. & Gwozdek, A. (2017). Factors Associated with Appointment-keeping in an American University’s Dental Clinic System: Toward Practice-based Population Health. Public Health.
  • Kimberlin, S., Shaefer, H.L. & Kim, J.* (2016). Measuring Poverty Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure in the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, 1998 to 2010. Journal of Economic and Social Measurement, 41(1), 17-47.
  • Fusaro, V.* & Shaefer, H.L. (2016). How Should We Define Low-Wage Work? An Analysis Using the Current Population Survey. Monthly Labor Review, October.
  • Rodems, R.* & Shaefer, H.L. (2016). Left Out: Policy Diffusion and the Exclusion of Black Workers from Unemployment Insurance. Social Science History, 40(3), 385-404.
  • Lein, L., Danziger, S.K., Shaefer, H.L., & Tillotson, A. (2016). Social Policy, Transfers, Programs and Assistance. In D. Brady & L. Burton (Eds), Oxford Handbook of Poverty and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Lapidos, A., Shaefer, H.L. & Gwozdek, A. (2016). Toward a Better Understanding of Dental Appointment-Keeping Behavior. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 44(1), 85- 91.
  • Phillips, E. Shaefer, H.L., Lapidos, A. & Aksu, M.N. (2016). Is a Mid-level Dental Provider Model Acceptable to Potential Patients? Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, 44(5), 426- 434.
  • Nicholl, K.L.,* Phillips, E., Shaefer, H.L., & Simoncic, T.* (2016). Low-Income Parents’ Perceptions of Oral Health and Acceptance of Mid-level Dental Providers. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 90(2), 100-10.
  • Danziger, S.K., Danziger, S.H., Seefeldt, K.S. & Shaefer, H.L. (2015). From Welfare to a Work- Based Safety Net: An Incomplete Transition. Point/Counterpoint, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 35(1), 231-238.
  • Shaefer, H.L., Edin, K. & Talbert, E.* (2015). Understanding the Dynamics of $2-a-Day Poverty in the United States. RSF: A Journal of the Social Sciences, 1(1), 120-138, special double issue on “Severe Deprivation.”
  • Kim, J.* & Shaefer, H.L. (2015). Are Household Food Expenditures Responsive to Entry onto the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program? Social Science Quarterly, 96(4), 1,086-1,102.
  • Phillips, E., Shaefer, H.L. & Gwozdek, A. (2015). Safety Net Care and Midlevel Dental Practitioners: A Case Study of the Portion of Care that might be Performed Under Various Setting and Scope-of-Practice Assumptions. American Journal of Public Health, 105(9), 1770-1776.
  • Wiederspan, J.*, Rhodes, E.*, & Shaefer, H.L. (2015). Expanding the Discourse on Antipoverty Policy: Reconsidering a Negative Income Tax. Journal of Poverty, 19(2), 218-238.
  • Gwozdek, A.E., Tetrick, R.*, & Shaefer, H.L. (2014). The Origins of Minnesota’s Mid-Level Dental Practitioner: Alignment of Problem, Political and Policy Streams. Journal of Dental Hygiene. 88(5), 292-301.
    • Received “third place” recognition in the 2015 Best Paper Award competition, given b Journal of Dental Hygiene
  • Gould-Werth, A.* & Shaefer, H.L. (2013). Do Alternative Base Periods Increase Unemployment Insurance Receipt Among Low-Educated Unemployed Workers? Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 32(4), 835-852.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Gutierrez, I.* (2013). The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Material Hardships among Low-Income households with Children. Social Service Review, 87(4), 753-779.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Edin, K. (2013). Rising Extreme Poverty in the United States and the Response of Federal Means-Tested Transfers. Social Service Review, 87(2), 250-268
    • Selected as a finalist for the 2021 Frank R. Breul Memorial Prize for best article published in Social Service Review.
  • Phillips, E. & Shaefer, H.L. (2013). Dental therapists: Evidence of Technical Competence. Journal of Dental Research, 92(7 suppl), S11-S15.
  • Shaefer, H.L., Song, X.*, & Williams Shanks, T.R. (2013). Do Single Mothers use the Earned Income Tax Credit to Reduce Unsecured Debt? Review of Economics of the Household, 11(4), 659-680.
  • Aksu, M.N., Phillips, E., & Shaefer, H.L. (2013). U.S. Dental School Deans’ Attitudes toward Mid- Level Providers. Journal of Dental Education, 77(11), 1469-1476.
  • Gould-Werth, A.* & Shaefer, H.L. (2012). Participation in Unemployment Insurance: Differences in Application Rates and Receipt among Applicants by Education and Race and Ethnicity. Monthly Labor Review, October, 28-41.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Ybarra, M. (2012). The Welfare Reforms of the 1990s and the Stratification of Material Well-Being among Low-Income Households with Children. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(9), 1810-1817.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Boudreaux, T. (2012). Private Charitable Giving during Economic Slowdowns: Shrinking Resources or a Growing Sector? Families in Society, 93(1), 5-10.
  • Shaefer, H.L., Tetrick, R.*, & Phillips, E. (2011). Could a Mid-Level Dental Provider Increase Access to Oral Health Care in Michigan? Michigan Journal of Public Health, 5(1), 53-84.
  • Hill, H.D. & Shaefer, H.L. (2011). Covered today, sick tomorrow? Trends and Correlates of Children’s Health Insurance Instability. Medical Care Research and Review, 68(5), 523- 536.
    • Nominated by the Medical Care Research and Review editorial board for the National Institute of Health Care Management (NIHCM) annual research award
  • Shaefer, H.L., Grogan, C.M., & Pollack, H.A. (2011). Transitions from Private to Public Health Coverage Among Children: Estimating Effects on Out-Of-Pocket Medical Costs and Health Insurance Premium Costs. Health Services Research, 46(3), 840-858.
    • Earlier version of work selected as one of the three overall best abstracts for AcademyHealth’s 2009 Annual Research Meeting
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Wu, L.* (2011). Unemployment Insurance and Low-Educated, Single, Working Mothers before and after Welfare Reform. Social Service Review, 85(2), 205-228.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Miller, M.* (2011). Improving Access to Oral Health Care Services Among Underserved Populations in the US: Is There a Role for Mid-Level Dental Providers? Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 22(3), 740-744.
  • Shaefer, H.L., Grogan, C.M., & Pollack, H.A. (2011). Who Transitions from Private to Public Health Insurance? Lessons from Expansions of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 22(1), 359-370.
  • Sammons, E.D.* & Shaefer, H.L., & Ybarra, M. (2011). The Children’s Bureau and the Passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act of 1921: Early Social Work Macro Practice in Action. Families in Society, 92(4), 358-363.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (2010). Identifying Key Barriers to Unemployment Insurance for Disadvantaged Workers in the United States. Journal of Social Policy, 39(3), 439-460.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (2010). Nonstandard Work and Economic Crisis. What Changes Should We Expect? Journal of Poverty, 14(1), 17-32.
  • Shaefer, H.L., DeLand, M.*, & Jones, T.R.* (2010). Leading Collaborations: Creating Strategic Alliances, Strategic Restructuring Via Mergers, Acquisitions, and Integration. In K.A. Agard (Ed) Leadership in Nonprofit Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Working Papers

  • Pilkauskas, N., Michelmore, K., Kovski, N. & Shaefer, H.L. The Effects of the 2021 Child Tax Credit on the Economic Wellbeing of Families with Low Income.
  • Pilkauskas, N., Jacob, B., Rhodes, E., Richard, K., and Shaefer, H. L. (revise and resubmit). The covid cash transfer study: The impacts of an unconditional cash transfer on the wellbeing of low-income families. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
  • Mann, O.*, Edin, K. & Shaefer, H.L. (under review). Cycles of Violence: Economic Mobility as a Predictor of Violent Crime and Homicide.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Rivera, J. Comparing Trends in Poverty and Material Hardship Over the Past Two Decades.



  • Cooney, P. & Shaefer, H.L. (June 24, 2021). Extra unemployment aid has helped keep Michigan’s economy humming: Don’t end it now. Detroit Free Press.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Edin, K. (April 2021). A Simple Approach to Ending Extreme Child Poverty. The Atlantic Monthly, magazine, June 2021.
  • Cooney, P. & Shaefer, H.L. (March 31, 2021). We learned something in the pandemic: Government matters. Bridge Michigan.
  • Udow-Phillips, M. & Shaefer, H.L. (February 2, 2021). MDHHS merger a success, don’t break it up. Crain’s Detroit.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (October 1, 2020). When government works: Michigan’s response to COVID’s economic crisis. Bridge Michigan.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (September 16, 2020). Poverty 2019: Good news from a lifetime ago. Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity.
  • Rodems, R. & Shaefer, H.L. (April 13, 2020). Federal stimulus checks may take longest to reach people who need aid most. Detroit News.
  • Udow-Phillips, M. & Shaefer, H.L. (July 14, 2019). Reduce ‘administrative burden’ of work rules to prevent mass health care losses. Crain’s Detroit.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Edin, K. (Winter 2018). Welfare Reform and the Families It Left Behind. Pathways Magazine.
  • Udow-Phillips, M., Foster Friedman, M. & Shaefer, H.L. (April 30, 2018). Medicaid work bill could hurt, not help, people who want to work. Detroit Free Press.
  • Udow-Phillips, M., Tipirneni, R. & Shaefer, H.L. (April 20, 2018). Beware of unintended consequences of Michigan Medicaid work demand. Bridge Michigan.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Ochoa, A. (March 15, 2018). How Blood-Plasma Companies Target the Poorest Americans. The Atlantic.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Harris, D. (October 16, 2017). When Government Designs Programs to Help Kids, the Details Matter. Huffington Post.
  • Harris, D. & Shaefer, H.L. (Spring, 2017). Fighting Child Poverty with a Universal Child Allowance. The American Prospect, 28(2).
  • Edin, K. & Shaefer, H.L. (Spring 2017). It’s Time to Complete the Work-based Safety Net. Pathways Magazine.
  • Edin, K., Shaefer, H.L. & Tach, L. (Spring 2017). A New Anti-Poverty Policy Litmus Test. Pathways Magazine.
  • Edin, K. & Shaefer, H.L. (August 22, 2016). 20 Years Since Welfare ‘Reform’. The Atlantic. Shaefer, H.L. & Edin, K. (September 3, 2015). Living on $2 a day in America. Guest Commentary, Los Angeles Times, print.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Edin, K. (September 12, 2012). Holes in the safety net: The rise of $2 a Day Poverty in the U.S. Spotlight on Poverty, Guest Commentary, online.
  • Shaefer, H.L. & Skocpol, T. (August 19, 2012). With the Ryan budget, the wealthy win while most Michiganders lose. Detroit Free Press, Guest Commentary, print.
  • Ybarra, M. & Shaefer, H.L. (August 21, 2011). Michigan Legislature should not cut aid to 25,000 children. Detroit Free Press, Guest Commentary, online.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (March 14, 2011). Cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit holds hidden costs. Detroit Free Press, Guest Commentary, online.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (August 1, 2009). Michigan can’t afford social services cuts. The Detroit News, OpEd, online.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (April 23, 2008). Snags in the Social Safety Net. The New York Times, Letter to the Editor, online.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (January 9, 2006). State Wage Referendums. The New York Times, Letter to the Editor, print.

Book & Article Reviews

  • Shaefer, H.L. (2011). Review of Proposal Writing: Effective Grantsmanship (Soraya M. Coley & Cynthia A. Scheinberg). Administration in Social Work, 35(5), 551-552.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (2010). Review of Minimum Wages (David Neumark & William L. Wascher). Journal of Social Policy, 39(2), 330-332.
  • Shaefer, H.L. (2008). Review of Reshaping the American Workforce in a Changing Economy (Eds. Harry J. Holzer & Demetra Smith Nightingale). Social Service Review, 82(4), 759-762.
Injustice of Place

The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America

Mapping poverty in America: H. Luke Shaefer’s new book explores “The Injustice of Place”
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$2 Dollars a Day

$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America

Kathy Edin and Luke Shaefer discuss the major themes of their revelatory research on income inequality and extreme poverty in the United States.
Read more