Sheila Mammen
Consumer and Family Economics

Research Activities:

My research interest lies in the economic well-being of families and households. For the past decade, I have been the Massachusetts P.I. for a 10-year multi-state, multi-disciplinary study on rural poverty, NC 223/NC1011, “Rural Low-Income Families: Tracking Their Well-Being and Functioning in the Context of Welfare Reform,” (for a complete project description, see The goal of this project is to understand the many complexities faced by rural low-income families within the context of their communities. Poverty is disproportionately higher and more persistent in rural areas than in urban areas and problems of unemployment, underemployment, and lower wages make it more difficult for the rural poor to escape poverty. Currently, my research focuses, specifically, on five areas involving low-income rural mothers: their labor supply decisions, their use of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), their coping ability in light of persistent food insecurity, their satisfaction with life, and their poverty dynamics.

The current economic downturn has revealed the importance of emphasizing the human element when it comes to financial decision-making whether spending, saving, consumption, or the ability of households to cope in the face of economic uncertainty. These family economic issues also have public policy implications. As more and more families, regardless of income level, face unemployment and financial uncertainty, those who are already at the bottom of the economic ladder become even more vulnerable. It is the economic issues confronting these households and families that I address through my scholarship.

This research was supported in part by USDA/CSREES/NRICGP Grants - 2001-35401-10215, 2002-35401-11591, 2004-35401-14938. Data were collected in conjunction with the cooperative multi state research project NC-223/NC-1011 Rural Low-income Families: Tracking Their Well-being and Functioning in the Context of Welfare Reform. Cooperating states are California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Recent Publications:

Mammen, S. & Sano, Y. (2012) Gaining access to economically marginalized rural populations: Lessons learned from non-probability sampling.  Rural Sociology, 77:3, 462-482.

Mammen, S., Lawrence, F.C., St. Marie, P., Berry, A.A., & Knight, S.E. (2011) The Earned Income Tax Credit and rural families: Differences between non-participants and participants.  Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 32:3, 461-472.

Mammen, S., Lawrence, F.C., & Lee, J.  (2011).  The earned income tax credit:  An incentive to rural employment.  In J. W. Bauer & E.M. Dolan (Eds).  Rural families and work:  Context and problems (pp. 185-205).  New York: Springer Science + Business Media, LLC.

Woodford, M., & Mammen,S. (2010) Escaping poverty: Rural low-income mothers. Journal of Career and Technical Education, 35:81-103.

Mammen, S., Bauer, J.W. & Lass, D. (2009). Life satisfaction among rural low-income mothers: The influence of health, human, personal, and social capital. Applied Research in Quality of Life. 4:365-386.

Mammen, S., Dolan, E. & Seiling, S.B. (2009). Poverty spells and rural families: Who gets on, who gets off the welfare rolls. Proceedings for International Consumer Sciences Research Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland, 108-112.

Mammen, S., Bauer, J.W. & Richards, L. (2009). Understanding persistent food insecurity: A paradox of place and circumstance. Social Indicators Research, 92:151-168.

Mammen, S., Lass, D. & Seiling, S.B. (2009). Labor force supply decisions of rural low-income mothers. The Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 30:1, 67-79.

Mammen, S., Bauer, J., and Lass, D. (2008). Low-income rural mothers make employment decisions. Proceedings of the Eastern Family Economics and Resource Management Conference. Savannah, GA. February, 2008.

Mammen, S., Bauer, J. and Richards, L. (2008). A paradox of place and circumstance: Food consumption behavior among rural low-income families. Proceedings of the International Association of Research in Economic Psychology and Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics. Rome, Italy.

Mammen, S., & Lawrence, F. C. (2006). How rural working families use the Earned Income Tax Credit: A mixed method analysis. Financial Counseling and Planning, 17, 51-63.

Mammen, S., & Lawrence, F. C. (2006). Use of the earned income tax credit by rural working families. Proceedings of the 33rd Conference of the Eastern Family Economics-Resource Management Association, 29-37.

Mammen, S., & Dolan., E. M. (2005). Employment and obstacles to employment of rural low-income mothers in the Northeast. Rural Poverty in the Northeast: Strengthening the Regional Research Effort Conference.  Available at:

Mammen, S., & Dolan, E. (2005). Leaving poverty: barriers and supports. In Global Forces and Individual Coping Strategies for Rural Poverty. Proceedings of the Regional Rural Poverty Conference. Published by the Northeast Center for Rural Development, 6-8.

Recent Grants:

Dissemination of Core Health Messages: Using Community Based Participatory Research to Strengthen the Health of Rural, Low-Income Families. The project is supported by the Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Program of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, grant number 2011-46100-31135. Sheila Mammen, P.I., $250,062. 9/01/11-8/31/12.

Core Health Messages: A Strategy to Improve the Health and Well-Being of Rural, Low-Income Families. The project is supported by the Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Program of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, grant number 2010-46100-21791. Sheila Mammen, P.I., $349,958. 8/1/09-9/30/11.

Teaching Activities:

My teaching focuses on consumer and family economics which is the study of the economic behavior and circumstances of families and households. It is an interdisciplinary field that applies the research findings from a variety of disciplines to better understand consumers’ economic decisions and to analyze their market and non-market production and consumption activities. At present, the courses I teach include: Resecon 162, Consumers in Society (general education course with Social & Behavioral Sciences designation); Resecon 362, Consumer Protection and Legislation; Resecon 460, Family Economics; Resecon 470, Family Economic Policy.  

Academic Outreach Activities:

Currently, I am participating in a 5-year multi-state, multi-disciplinary longitudinal research project, NC1171 “Interactions of Individual, Family, and Policy Contexts on the Mental and Physical Health of Diverse Rural Low-Income Families.” Among my other professional activities, I was part of a 6-year, HUD-funded project, where I worked with homeless mothers and children in the City of Springfield.