Kathryn J. Edin Research

American Voices Project: 

The American Voices Project is a comprehensive effort to listen to people across the country to find out how they’re doing. It’s not a standard survey, but a commitment to listen. The goal is to learn about what’s going well, what needs to be improved, and how we might make our neighborhoods and country work better. A typical conversation covers:

  • Defining events that have shaped your life

  • What your typical day is like

  • What’s going well for you and what’s not going so well

  • How we might build communities – and a larger society – that works better

Every community in the United States is unique and faces its own set of challenges and triumphs. The American Voices Project is a way to speak with people living in all types of communities across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.


Deepening our Understanding of America's Most Vulnerable Communities:

To deepen our understanding of the challenges, strengths, and texture of the nation's most vulnerable communities, we propose a two-phase research project. During phase one, we will index a series of community-level metrics of disadvantage and well- being - particularly rates of deep and persistent poverty, as well as outcomes related to health, employment, and educational attainment, among others - to build an algorithm that can be used to identify a slate of the nation's most vulnerable communities, stratified by rural, suburban, and urban context. Based on this slate, in phase two we will identify four communities for deep ethnographic study. Qualitative research methods will include longitudinal participant observation, in-depth interviews with community residents, and in-depth analysis of publicly available data sources. Based on these data, we will produce: 1) a series of rich case studies that deepen our understanding of the texture and context of America's poorest communities; 2) a research report that highlights both the common and unique themes that emerge across the research sites as they relate to health and well-being; and 3) a set of policy briefs that detail the priorities for health and social policy change held by community members, as well as their views on the efficacy and acceptability of a series of proposed interventions. We envision that each research products would be shared with the RWJ Foundation, first, and then made public. We envision that the products would eventually be revised into a research report, and an eventual book aimed at the general public.