Social IMPACT Research Center Publications

The Social IMPACT Research Center has an extensive portfolio of needs assessment and evaluation research on issues facing poor and low-income populations. Our user-friendly work equips nonprofits, foundations, and governments to advance real-world solutions to poverty.
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Illinois and Chicago Region: Poverty, Income and Health Insurance

September 26, 2019

Millions of people in Illinois experience poverty or are living on the brink. That societal position keeps opportunities out of reach and nearly guarantees worse outcomes in every quality of life domain—making ALL of us worse off. The poverty rate for the United States was 11.8% in 2018, a decline of 0.5 percentage points from 2017. There were 38.1 million people in poverty nationwide. In 2018, 1.5 million Illinoisans were in poverty—a rate of 12.1%. Additionally, 2.0 million Illinoisans are near poor and economically insecure with incomes between 100% and 199% of the federal poverty threshold. This year marks the first time that the U.S.poverty rate is below pre-recession levels; Illinois lags behind this trend,with its poverty rate just returning to pre-recession levels.


Access to Secure Choice: Addressing the Barriers to Retirement Savings for Illinois Workers

November 28, 2017

Illinois is among the first states in the nation to pass retirement savings legislation in the form of Secure Choice. With the implementation of Secure Choice, workers in Illinois at qualifying businesses without access to an employment-based retirement plan will be automatically enrolled in a retirement savings program. An estimated 1.3 million Illinoisans who currently do not have access to workplace retirement plans will be potentially impacted by Secure Choice. As Illinois moves toward Secure Choice implementation, however, there are a number of key questions that should be answered to help ensure that the program is addressing barriers to participation, especially among low-income workers, women, immigrants, and workers of color. This research is aimed at better understanding these barriers.

Employment; Safety Net & Human Services

SNAP ET Proposed Rule Letter

June 17, 2020

Comments in response to Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: Employment andTraining Opportunities in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program RIN 0584-AE68

Motivational Interviewing: HIV-Related Health Outcomes and Social Determinants of Health

January 14, 2020

For individuals experiencing housing insecurity—and other hardships associated with poverty, such as low rates of health literacy, food insecurity, lack of transportation, and restricted access to quality health care—an HIV diagnosis exacerbates an already burdened quality of life. These larger structural barriers may inhibit HIV+ participants from feeling able to change individual-level behaviors which may complicate their HIV status. One counseling intervention that addresses obstacles to change is Motivational Interviewing (MI). MI is a collaborative, client centered approach that fosters communication between a service provider and their recipient with the goal of identifying and resolving the change goals identified during the counseling session. Studies on healthcare outcomes for chronically ill individuals who received MI interventions indicate that, when followed properly, MI can effect long-term, positive behavior changes. This paper defines MI, explores it's applications among HIV+ participants, describes an MI fidelity monitoring tool, and situates MI relevance while acknowledging the influence of social determinants of health.

Healthcare; Poverty

Big Shoulders, Bold Solutions; Economic Security for Chicagoans

February 1, 2019

Chicago is in so many ways a thriving global city. But far too many of us face the daily reality of financialinsecurity caused by jobs that don't pay enough to live on, that have unstable hours, and that don't providebenefits that many in the workforce a generation ago enjoyed. Both as a city and as a people, economicresilience in the face of change is critical to create a thriving metropolis, yet strong forces are pushing us awayfrom this, not towards it: deep racial and gender inequity; steadily widening income inequality; the erosion ofthe middle class; the rise in contingent work and looming automation of jobs. The result? Work is unreliableand income is precarious for those living in deep poverty and all the way up into the middle class.In response to these realities, last summer the Chicago City Council passed a resolution to create the ChicagoResilient Families Initiative Task Force to assess and determine the scope of a guaranteed income pilot aswell as solutions to modernize the Earned Income Tax Credit. Since then, at the behest of Mayor Emanuel,the task force has met, learned, dug deep and explored different paths to economic security and resiliencyfor Chicagoans. We sought advice from community residents and national experts who have been engageddeeply in these questions for years

L’Arche Chicago Theory of Change Narrative

November 15, 2018

L'Arche Chicago ( is a non-profit organization in Oak Park, IL that provides high quality health, housing, and social services to people with with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD), whom L'Arche terms "core members." L'Arche Chicago's unique model of care differs from other community-integrated living arrangements (CILA) in that staff, assistants, and core members live together in homes and develop mutually-transforming relationships through shared life experiences. L'Arche Chicago opened its doors in 2000 with one home, two core members, and two assistants. Today, L'Arche Chicago has three homes, two of which opened in the past four years, and a total of nine core members and fourteen assistants.As L'Arche Chicago has grown, and anticipates further growth, the organization recognized a need to be able to define, visualize, and express their larger organizational theory of change and identify and track outcomes to measure L'Arche's impact on members, assistants, and the wider community. To do this, the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation collaborated with the Social IMPACT Research Center (IMPACT) to provide technical assistance to L'Arche Chicago with the goal of developing a theory of change

The Social Return on Investment for New Moms

August 1, 2018

New Moms ( is a non-profit organization based in the Austin neighborhood in Chicago and in Oak Park, IL that provides wraparound health, housing, and social services to young moms. New Moms utilizes an integrated, participant (and woman)-centered approach to interrupt the two-generation cycle of poverty, by focusing on critical life services both for moms and children. The current program structure is built on a three-pronged approach of housing, family support services, and job training, with over arching support and referral services infused throughout all programming.The New Moms SROI study encompassed October 2015 - September 2017, and included all young women who exited any of the three New Moms program areas during this time and who fell below 138% of the Federal Poverty Line.The findings show that investing in New Moms generates nearly a 4-fold return for every dollar invested. This SROI clearly makes the case that transitional supportive housing, paired with holistic wrap around services, is a critical intervention, specifically for young moms. If, as a society, we believe in investing in breaking the two-generation cycle of poverty, then the value provided by this model should serve as a clear call to investment.

Acceso equitativo a Secure Choice: abordando los obstáculos para ahorrar para la jubilación para los trabajadores de Illinois

January 22, 2018

Illinois es uno de los primeros estados en la nación que aprueba la legislación de ahorro para la jubilación utilizando Secure Choice. Con la implementación de Secure Choice, los trabajadores en Illinois en empresas calificadas sin acceso a un plan de jubilación basado en el empleo serán automáticamente inscritos en un programa de ahorro para la jubilación. Se estima que 1,3 millones de personas de Illinois que actualmente no tienen acceso a planes de jubilación en el lugar de trabajo se verán potencialmente impactados por Secure Choice. Sin embargo, a medida que Illinois avanza hacia la implementación de Secure Choice, hay una serie de preguntas clave que deben responderse para ayudar a garantizar que el programa aborde las barreras que impiden la participación, especialmente entre trabajadores de bajos ingresos, mujeres, inmigrantes y trabajadores de color. Esta investigación tiene como objetivo entender mejor estos obstáculos.

It's Time We End Homelessness in Oak Park

November 9, 2016

To be homeless is to live on the streets. Or in a Housing Forward shelter. Or on someone's couch. In Oak Park, more than five percent of our residents live in extreme poverty, making less than $9,000 a year. About 15 percent of our residents are food insecure, meaning they don't know where they will get their next meal. Too many live one missed rent payment from eviction—and homelessness. The homeless are not just on our streets. They are our classmates at school, and our parents and friends from work or church or baseball teams. They are members of our community. In all, about 200 kids in elementary schools and high schools are homeless. They are living with friends or relatives sleeping on couches with no permanence. The Oak Park Homelessness Coalition is working to change that.Together, we can end homelessness in Oak Park.

Housing & Homelessness; Poverty

Harvest Commons: Final Implementation and Outcome Evaluation Report

May 13, 2016

This report is the final outcome evaluation of Harvest Commons, a supportive housing program on the near west side of Chicago that offers an enhanced, health-focused model of supportive services. Along with typical services such as case management and employment support services, residents of Harvest Commons -- virtually all of whom had been homeless -- have the opportunity to participate in on-site urban farming, nutritional counseling, and cooking classes. Through surveying and interviewing staff and residents and analyzing program data, IMPACT learned that Harvest Commons has had a positive impact in many different areas of residents' lives. The enhanced, health-focused model appears to have led to more positive health outcomes, and the collaborative model of service provision has created both special opportunities and challenges in creating cohesive, seamless, and impactful programming for residents. Read more about the findings and IMPACT's recommendations in the full report.

Chicago Community Area Indicators, 2014

April 8, 2016

Key statistics for Chicago neighborhoods from the 2010-2014 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.

Chicago Communty Area Indicators, 2015

March 1, 2016

The employment estimates in this databook come from the ACS and thereforereflect the 5-year timeframe of 2011-2015; they are not directly comparable withthe more timely Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates, which are released with amuch shorter lag time. Since the BLS does not release local community areaemployment estimates, the ACS is the only source for this information. The sum of all the Chicago Community Areas may not exactly match ACS totalsfor the City of Chicago because Community Area estimates must be of themethods used to allocate census tracts into community areas.

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