Kerri Nicoll received the Rackham Centennial for work on her dissertation research, which is an interpretive interview project examining how families living in or near poverty make decisions about whether or not to participate in various public anti-poverty programs. Research has long noted a discrepancy between the number of Americans eligible for public anti-poverty programs and the number that actually participate, with participation rates varying from 29% to 88% of those eligible depending on the program. Researchers have examined reasons for this, with no comprehensive explanation. Kerri's research will provide new insight into how eligible households make participation decisions and what this means for their well-being and their relationships with government and society.

Kerri entered the Joint Doctoral Program in Social Work and Political Science with a strong interest in U.S. poverty and the relationship between politics, anti-poverty policy, and the dominant discourse about poverty in our society. 

“Through course work, teaching, and independent reading, I became particularly interested in understanding how individuals living in or near poverty think about their government and how this may or may not impact their willingness to participate in government-run anti-poverty programs. The vast majority of studies exploring participation in public anti-poverty programs rely on survey data.  There is very little research about how low-income individuals themselves view their experiences with and beliefs about government.”

To shed light on these topics, Kerri decided to conduct an interpretive, in-depth interview study for her dissertation. The Centennial Award gives her the opportunity to conduct these interviews this summer.  Her research, which is advised by Drs. Ann Lin (Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy) and Sandra Danziger (Professor of Social Work and Research Professor of Public Policy), combines survey, life history, and conceptual interview techniques to examine individuals' previous experiences and opinions about government and poverty.   

Kerri enjoys playing with her two-year-old son, reading fiction and walking her dog during her "free" time!