The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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CRF Director Perry-Jenkins Continues Leading the Charge for Better Policies for Working Families

MPJ profile

Dr. Maureen Perry-Jenkins, the Director of the Center for Research on Families, recently participated in a conference entitled “The Future of Work and the Workforce” in Baltimore, Maryland. As an invited speaker and session leader at the conference, which was sponsored by the Workforce Matters initiative, Dr. Perry-Jenkins spoke broadly about the challenges facing working-poor families as they cope with the stress of new parenthood and holding down full-time employment. Using data from her ten-year longitudinal study of over 350 low-income working parents, her aim is to inform and support social policies that address the needs of these families.

Dr. Perry-Jenkins’s expertise has recently come to the forefront of public debate. The problem of families who must contend with increasingly challenging and unsupportive workplace policies and practices is the centerpiece of new U.S. legislation proposed to improve employee flexibility. A set of new policies that lend greater support to families—not just those in crisis, but all families—may have a far-reaching and positive impact on family health outcomes and finances than the costs incurred by the status quo.

According to Dr. Perry-Jenkins, “this is an incredibly important time for the work of academic researchers to help guide the direction of family policy.” And legislators such as U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are sitting up and taking notice of research findings coming out of the field. Sen. Warren has recently proposed the “Schedules that Work Act” to help ease the burden of volatile scheduling on working families.

Like many of CRF’s affiliates from the Family Research Scholars program, Dr. Perry-Jenkins is a regular contributor to events that address pressing social issues. She is a fixture at speaking engagements, on panel discussions and webinars, and receives many invitations to speak or be interviewed on radio and television programs. As the Director of the Center for Research on Families, she is a strong advocate for developing frameworks that aid researchers in their efforts to better engage the public.

One of CRF’s partner organizations at UMass Amherst is the Public Engagement Project (PEP)—a consortium of faculty members from Colleges across campus including the College of Natural Sciences, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the School of Public Health and the College of Education. Other associates of PEP include the Institute for Social Science Research, the Center for Public Policy and Administration, and the Psychology of Peace and Violence Program. Each of these programs contributes ideas and supports mentorship for faculty looking to learn new skills and techniques to publicly disseminate their research—by enriching public debate, contributing to policymaking discussions at the local, state, federal and international level, and helping engender more widespread, targeted social and behavioral change.

Says Dr. Perry Jenkins: “Public advocacy for social change is a necessity. Research findings that reach a broader audience—while demonstrating the value of the rigorous research for uncovering truth and expanding knowledge— create the critical opportunity to instigate change aimed at addressing some of the world’s most glaring social problems.”