History of the California Welfare Laboratory

The California Welfare Laboratory, headquartered at the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality (CPI) in Stanford, California, was originally developed under the auspices of the California state legislature and the University of California Board of Regents.

In August 1997, California’s legislation to implement federally mandated changes to the welfare system was signed into law. Article 9.7 of the legislation (AB 1542; Chapter 270, Statutes of 1997) directed the University of California to undertake a variety of specific tasks to monitor and evaluate the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility for Kids (CalWORKs) program and other relevant welfare policies and programs.

In 1998, the UC Office of the President’s Office of Research created the Welfare Policy Research Project (WPRP) and convened an advisory board comprising 15 members: two co-chairs (former legislators, one Democrat and one Republican), four current state legislators (a Democrat and Republican from each chamber), four senior state agency officials, four county welfare directors, and a public-interest advocate.

In response to its legislated mandates, WPRP focused on four missions: (1) to operate a research grants program to support applied welfare-policy research sought by state and local officials; (2) to establish the California Census Research Data Center, with secure operating facilities at UC Berkeley and UCLA; (3) to develop and maintain an internet-accessible welfare research database to provide timely information on welfare-related research being conducted in California; and (4) to sponsor and organize forums for policymakers on cutting-edge welfare-related research issues and findings. In addition, WPRP staff provided technical assistance to state and local officials seeking information on welfare-related questions.

When the legislature ended its appropriations to WPRP, the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality (CPI) agreed to host and update WPRP's internet-accessible welfare research database, in the form of the California Welfare Laboratory, as well as disseminating welfare-relevant news and research to the center's community.