Professors Study Intergenerational Poverty

OGDEN, Utah – Four Weber State University professors in the child and family studies department have partnered with the Department of Workforce Services (DWS) to study intergenerational poverty in Utah with a focus on children.

The Utah Intergenerational Poverty Mitigation Act of 2012 charged the DWS in Utah with establishing and maintaining a system to track intergenerational poverty — families that have lived in poverty for three or more generations.

“This initiative is focused on children but uses data-driven evidence to discover how best to rescue them out of the poverty/welfare dependency cycle,” said Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, who sponsored the bill in the Utah Senate. “The reason that is so important is because of the attending consequences associated with that cycle — dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, increased crime, drug and alcohol abuse and more. We’re victimizing these children by not rescuing them from the cycle.”

This study will help to differentiate the support given to those in situational poverty and those in intergenerational poverty.

“Intergenerational poverty and welfare dependency is long term, and after multiple generations, a lifestyle is created,” Reid said. “If we use the same interventions we do with situational poverty, we will continue to enable this cycle. Instead, we need to focus on saving the children.”

DWS reached out to Paul Schvaneveldt, chair of WSU’s child and family studies department, for help in analyzing the data.

Schvaneveldt and professors Daniel Hubler, Carrie Ota and Pamela Payne are examining state records including employment history, educational background, substance abuse counseling, domestic violence history, childcare history and family stability.

“We’re looking at this large data set that’s several hundred thousand state records, plus data we received from the Department of Workforce Services, to determine how different factors impact intergenerational poverty,” Schvaneveldt said. “What are some of the issues that contribute to it, and what patterns can predict it? The whole purpose of the project is to study.”

Schvaneveldt said although the data can give a detailed perspective of a family’s life, there aren’t state records for everything.

“It’s not going to give us a cause and effect outcome; that’s impossible with this,” he said. “But if you can look at some of the variables that are more influential and find the support that will be the most beneficial to families, that can help break the cycle of poverty.”

Schvaneveldt said he’s happy to help inform policy makers who will decide how to use this information to best assist impoverished families.

“That’s part of our role as faculty — to provide decisionmakers with factual information and analysis to allow them to make the best, most informed decisions,” Schvaneveldt said.


Paul Schvaneveldt, Child and Family Studies department chair
801-626-6597 •

Stuart Reid, Utah state senator
801-627-8171 •


Cozette Jenkins, University Communications
801-626-7948 •