Katherine Magnuson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Ph.D., Human Development and Social Policy, Northwestern University, 2002.
B.A., History and Political Science, Brown University, 1995.

Office Address: 
206 School of Social Work
(608) 263-4812

Socioeconomic status and child development; early education and intervention; welfare reform and family well-being.


Katherine’s research focuses on the well-being and development of economically disadvantaged children and their families. She examines how disparities in socioeconomic status (SES) affect children’s development, and how these effects may be altered by policies and programs, especially early childhood education programs. She also investigates how maternal education impacts child development.

Specifically, Katherine blends two streams of research that are often considered separately: (1) research on the influence of parents’ employment, income, and education, as well as welfare policies, on children’s well-being, with a special emphasis on the extent to which differences in SES across racial and ethnic groups explain disparities in children’s school performance; and (2) research on direct child interventions, particularly early education, that may serve a compensatory role for disadvantaged children. The first body of literature illuminates the scope of possible benefits that may accrue to children from interventions that directly improve the well-being of their parents, while the second line of research provides insights regarding how directing services and resources to children, rather than to their parents, may buffer the harmful effects of being raised in a disadvantaged family.

Faculty Affiliations: 
Recent Publications: 
Carlson, M. J., & Magnuson K. A. (2011).  Low-Income Fathers' Influence on Children. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 635(1), 95 - 116.
Duncan, G. J., Ludwig J., & Magnuson K. A. (2010).  Reducing Poverty through Early Childhood Interventions. Targeting Investments in Children: Fighting Poverty When Resources Are Limited. 17, 143-160. Abstract

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