New to CPRC - Robert Hartley

This is a series to introduce CPRC members to a broader community.

January 23, 2020
Robert Hartley

Discipline/Training Background: I have a PhD in economics from the University of Kentucky, though I made my way to economics via industrial engineering as an undergrad as well as a master's of divinity in Christian theology.

Department: I joined the social policy faculty in the Columbia School of Social Work, and I am also affiliated with the Center on Poverty and Social Policy in addition to the CPRC.

Started at Columbia: My start at Columbia was through a CPRC/poverty center postdoctoral position for two years, and my time was partially funded through the University of New Hampshire's Carsey School of Public Policy. I had the good fortune to have an office next to Jane Waldfogel and work directly with Irv Garfinkel, and now my faculty office is just a few doors down from both of these generous, helpful mentors.

What research are you working on currently?

There are several projects I am trying to balance at the moment on topics like: intergenerational welfare participation, food insecurity, child care, and income guarantees. All of the work ties back to how social policy interacts with family well-being, and specifically how children fare in the short and long term.

Main collaborators at Columbia? Elsewhere?

At Columbia, I collaborate with Irv Garfinkel, Jane Waldfogel, Chris Wimer, and I recently received a grant award with a current postdoc here, Megan Curran. I have also enjoyed collaborating with Jim Ziliak and Carlos Lamarche at the University of Kentucky, as well as Beth Mattingly at the Boston Fed (previously University of New Hampshire).

What are the policies or areas of policies to which your work is relevant?

Given the different areas I am working on, a common theme is how changes in social policy, or welfare reform, affect a family's ability to get by and invest in children. Major welfare reforms in the 1990s tied benefits more closely to work requirements, and there continue to be policy proposals and reforms that make it harder for families to receive public assistance. I want to help us know how these programs are working and what reforms are more helpful than others, especially given that poverty today can have long-term effects on poverty in the future based on healthy child development.

Don't be shy; what accomplishment are you most proud of and why? 

I am proudest when I can use my work to represent those who are economically vulnerable, families with low income or lack of sufficient food or other resources. So, when I am able to present research to the US Department of Agriculture on food insecurity, or to the US Department of Health and Human Services on child care and child support, then I feel like I am doing what I set out to do. There have been a couple of 2020 presidential campaigns that have reached out with questions on poverty and policy, or requests from the New York Times and other media outlets, and again, it is my ability to speak about the well-being of families and children whose voices may be under-represented that I really value. 

Fun fact about you - 

I think that I am just really lucky. I have been able to meet many of my heroes that led me to study economics and poverty: Ambassador Andrew Young, Representative John Lewis, Corretta Scott King, and more recently Rev. Dr. William Barber. And now I get to work alongside senior colleagues who have been heroes in the profession. Working at Columbia and living in NYC are both like a dream come true, so I also enjoy doing a lot of exploring town with my kids and enjoying our great neighborhood, for example, the Morningside Lights Festival that winds through our park and then campus.