Wiseman Michael

Michael Wiseman

Research Professor of Public Policy, Public Administration, and Economics

Name:Michael Wiseman
Address:805 21st Street NW Room 620 Washington, DC 20052
Phone:(202) 994-8625

Michael Wiseman is a Research Professor of Public Policy, Public Administration, and Economics at The George Washington University. Before moving to GWU, he was Professor of Economics at the University of California at Berkeley (18 years), Professor of Public Affairs, Urban and Regional Planning, and Economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (10 years) and Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington (2 years). He is an affiliated scholar with the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has served as consultant on and contributor to policy evaluation and program management for various federal government agencies, state governments, social welfare agencies, international organizations, and evaluation contractors.

View the Spring 2019 syllabus for PPPA 6081, Poverty and Social Policy .

I am pleased to include on this site the work of “Peter the Citizen,” an ardent conservative deeply concerned about truth in policy making and policy assessment. View the work of “Peter the Citizen” here.

Current Work

Papers, Projects, Presentations, and Courses

  • “The ‘FSS-X’ Demonstration: Combining an Executive Skills Coachi Model with Financial Incentives to Improve Economic Mobility for Families with Housing Subsidies.”  Paper prepared for the Thirty-Eighth Annual Research Conference, Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, Miami, Florida, November 11-14, 2015. — View
  • “Child Poverty in the United States and the United Kingdom:  What Counts? What’s Happened? What’s Next?” (With Tyler Rockey). Manuscript, January 9, 2015 — View
  • “Trialing for the Public Good: Building Effective Programs from the Ground Up” (with Mike Fishman and Tom Gais).  Paper given at the 2014 Fall Research Conference of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management in Albuquerque, New Mexico, November 6-8, 2014. — View
  • “Getting it Right, or at Least Better: Improving Identification of Food Stamp Participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey” (with John A. Kirlin). Manuscript, August 28, 2014. – View
  • “Doing Process Analysis Better.” Monograph prepared for the Office of Policy, U.S. Social Security Administration under contract HHSP23320095635WC. September 2012; revised August 2013. – View
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Unemployment Insurance in the Great Recession
  • The “Great Recession” of 2007-2009 generated massive unemployment.  For many workers, unemployment insurance (UI) benefits cushioned the effects of job loss on consumption, but many workers are not eligible for UI and earnings replacement rates for those eligible are low.  Moreover, despite unprecedented extensions of available UI benefits for those eligible, large numbers of recipients exhausted their maximum available benefits before finding new jobs.  Many applied for and received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.  In this project Michael Wiseman is working with investigators for six states and colleagues in the USDA Economic Research Service to study the interaction of UI and SNAP programs before, during, and after the Great Recession.  The research is unique in that for each state UI and SNAP administrative data are matched to create exceptionally reliable information on the distribution and timing of SNAP take-up among UI recipients.  Results have been presented at various meetings; the overall report will be published in 2015 as a book.
  • Supplemental Security Income for Children
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is the most important component of public assistance for American families with disabled children.  Like disability-related assistance for working-age adults, SSI-for-children caseloads have increased substantially in recent years.  This has occurred despite a lack of apparent change in the prevalence of disabilities among children generally.  Analysts have pointed to many factors as likely contributors to caseload growth, including diminished family incomes, the decline in the real value of alternative sources of support such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and state efforts to promote transfer to SSI of children (and adults) from other programs that involve more state costs.  In this project Michael Wiseman is working with Erica Harbatkin of SRI, Inc. to model the determinants of the demand for and supply of SSI for children and to study the sources of variation across states in take-up of SSI for potentially eligible children.  Preliminary results suggest that part of the variation is the consequence of differences in state strategies for promoting SSI access, and that these difference persist.  Once complete, the results will be used to assess the merits of various SSI reform proposals.
  • Poverty in the US and the UK: Relative Measurement and Relative Achievement
  • By the government’s official measure, 18 percent of children in the United States were living in poor families in 2007. By 2010 the rate was 22 percent.  In contrast, the official poverty rate in the United Kingdom was 23 percent for 2007/2008 (the fiscal year beginning April 1, 2007); by 2010/2011 it had fallen five percentage points, to 18 percent.  Thus on face the circumstances of children moved in opposite directions in the two countries.  Movement in the general population poverty rates was similar:  Both countries experienced the Great Recession.  Between 2007 and 2010 the unemployment rate in the US rose from 4.6 to 9.6 percent; the unemployment rate in the UK from 5.3 to 7.8 percent.  The difference is the product of a combination of policy and measurement.  This work, done jointly with Trachtenberg graduate student Tyler Rockey, focuses on the measurement side and contrasts approaches to poverty assessment and recent innovations in poverty assessment in the two countries.  Rockey and Wiseman produce unique estimates of what the prevalence of poverty would be in the US were assessment done the British way.  A first paper on this work was presented in August 2014 at the annual workshop of the National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics.
  • The Impact of Mobility Mentoring®
  • Many evaluations of programs intended to improve family well-being show positive effects for a few—often a minority—of participants but little or no consequence for many.  The recent book Scarcity:  Why Having Too Little Means So Much by Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir has drawn attention to the consequences of poverty for people’s ability to manage and plan.  These authors and others have used ideas drawn from what is broadly termed “brain science” to develop strategies for offsetting poverty effects and aiding low-income adults in taking advantage of opportunities for advancement.  The Mobility Mentoring® (MM) program developed by the Crittenton Women’s Union is brain-science linked and has a credible record of accomplishment.  However, to date no rigorous evaluation of MM impacts has been conducted.  As consultant to MDRC, Inc., a respected national evaluation organization, Michael Wiseman is working with MDRC and CWU personnel on a randomized trial of MM impact.  Major foundation funding has been secured, and implementation is tentatively set for early 2015.
  • Misreporting of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)
  • The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a premier information source for study of the health of Americans.  The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly FSP, the Food Stamp Program) is the nation’s largest nutrition-oriented social assistance program.  Ideally, the combination of other nutrition and health information about NHANES respondents with information on receipt of nutrition assistance would support study of the targeting and effectiveness of SNAP.  However, the utility of NHANES as a source of information on use and consequences of SNAP is diminished if survey respondents fail to report receipt accurately.  In this project Michael Wiseman and co-investigator John A. Kirlin of the US Department of Agriculture compare estimates of national SNAP participation and benefits derived from the NHANES with administrative totals and investigate the pattern of under- and over-reporting of SNAP receipt by NHANES respondents in a pilot study that matched NHANES data for Texas to that state’s program administrative files.  A report on the project will be released in fall 2014 after release by the National Center for Health Statistics.
  • Speaker, 2015 Annual Research Conference, National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics (NAWRS), Atlanta, Georgia, August 23-26.  Presentation title:  Reauthorizing TANF:  A ‘Cri du Coeur.’  This talk is about an important paper by Peter Germanis, posted here.
  • Speaker, 4th International Evaluation Conference, “Ex Ante Evaluations – Preparing for EU 2014-2020.” 26-27 September 2013, Budapest, Hungary.  (Download PDF)
  • Speaker, International Evaluation Conference, “Cohesion Policy 2014-2020:  Towards Evidence Based Programming and Evaluation,” 4-5 July 2013, Vilnius, Lithuania. This conference was held in conjunction with the beginning of the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union.  The talk was entitled “The Ex-Ante Evaluator:  Super Hero or Ordinary Mortal?” (Download PDF)
  • Speaker, 8th Evaluation Conference, Ministry of Regional Development, Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, “Evaluation in the System of Public Policies,” Warsaw, Poland 12-13 November 2012.  Prepared paper:  “The Path to the Prize:  Two Perspectives on Counter-Factual Evaluation.” (Download PDF)
  • Speaker and panel member, European Commission high-level conference Shaping the future of the European Social Fund – ESF & Europe 2010, Brussels, Belgium, 23-24 June 2010. Workshop 3 presentation: “American Experience with Workforce Investment Grants: Food for Thought for European Social Fund Planners.” (Download PDF)
  • Rapporteur, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development High-Level Forum “Sickness, Disability and Work: Keeping on Track in the Economic Downturn,” Stockholm, May 14-15 2009. (Download PDF)
  • Restoring the Entrails of Welfare Reform” (with Zachary Parolin).  Thirty-Eighth Annual Research Conference, Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, Miami, Florida, November 11-14, 2015.  The PowerPoint for this presentation is here; the underling paper will be posted soon.
  • Poverty and Social Policy (Spring 2015 syllabus)
  • The Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, George Washington University
  • “Opening Up American Federalism: Improving Welfare the European Way” (with Robert Walker). Manuscript, January 4, 2006. — View
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