Sarah Halpern-MeekinProfessor

I am a sociologist who uses qualitative and quantitative methods to study romantic relationships and low-income families’ finances, as well as government policies directed at both of these areas.

My current research includes examining how social poverty—or lacking adequate relational resources—shapes people’s wellbeing and decisions; understanding the lives of prime-age men who are out of the labor force (neither working nor seeking a formal job); studying the role of relationship churning—on-again/off-again relationships—in the lives of parents and their children; and longitudinally following how poor mothers of babies experience a program that provides them with monthly unconditional cash gifts.

Recent press

Poverty and the pandemic with Prof. Sarah Halpern-Meekin1050 Bascom (podcast), July 15, 2020

[Op-ed] The crisis to come: Poverty after the pandemicCap Times, June 10, 2020

A gloomy prediction on how much poverty could riseNew York Times, April 16, 2020

Sarah Halpern-Meekin on “social poverty”UW Institute for Research on Poverty, April 15, 2020

How families and communities can weather uncertain times: BTN LivebigBig Ten Network, April 6, 2020

The rise of the only child: What’s behind the rising number of single-child familiesChannel 3000 News, February 24, 2020

How social ties affect povertyWisconsin Public Radio, August 22, 2019


Halpern-Meekin, S. 2020. Social poverty: A new view of relational resources. Contexts 19(2): 40-45.

Turney, K., & Halpern-Meekin, S. 2020. Parental relationship churning and adolescent wellbeing: Examining instability within families. Journal of Marriage and Family 82(3): 965-980.

Halpern-Meekin, S., Costanzo, M., Ehrenthal, D., & Rhoades, G. 2019. Intimate partner violence screening in the prenatal period: Variation by state, insurance, and patient characteristics. Maternal and Child Health Review 1-12.

Tach, L., Halpern-Meekin, S., Edin, K., & Amorim, M. 2019. “As good as money in the bank”: Building a personal safety net with the Earned Income Tax Credit. Forthcoming, Social Problems 66: 274-293.

Halpern-Meekin, S., & Turney, K. 2018. Relationship churning and desistance from intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Halpern-Meekin, S., Sternberg Greene, S., Levin, E., & Edin, K. 2018. Rainy Day EITC. RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 4: 161-176.

Turney, K., & Halpern-Meekin, S. 2017. Parenting in on/off relationships: The link between relationship churning and father involvement. Demography 54: 861-886.

Halpern-Meekin, S., Tach, L., Sykes, J., & Edin, K. 2016. A hand up, not a slap on the wrist: Tax-based government assistance for lower-income families. Contexts 15: 52-57.

Halpern-Meekin, S., & Turney, K. 2016. Relationship churning and parenting stress among mothers and fathers. Journal of Marriage and Family 78: 715-729.

Sykes, J., Križ, K., Edin, K., & Halpern-Meekin, S. 2015. Dignity and dreams: What the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) means to low-income families. American Sociological Review 80: 243-26

Tach, L., & Halpern-Meekin, S. 2014. Tax code knowledge and behavioral responses among EITC recipients: Policy insights from qualitative data. Journal of Policy Analysis & Management 33: 413-439.

Classes Taught

  • Course number: HDFS 535: Course title: A Family Perspective on Policymaking
  • Course number: HDFS/CS 465 : Course title: Families & Poverty
  • Course number: HDFS 765: Course title: Families & Poverty
  • Course number: HDFS 843: Course title: Family Policy: How It Affects Families & What Professionals Can Do
  • Course number: INTER-HE 980: Course title: Applied Master’s Capstone Seminar


  • Human Development & Family Studies

Degree Program

  • MS Human Ecology
  • PhD Human Ecology: Human Development and Family Studies


Office: 4107 Nancy Nicholas Hall

Phone: 608-263-4691