Created in 1974 by the Ford Foundation and a group of federal agencies, MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and social policy research organization dedicated to learning what works to improve programs and policies that affect the poor. MDRC is best known for mounting large-scale demonstrations and evaluations of real-world policies and programs targeted to low-income people. We helped pioneer the use of random assignment — the same highly reliable methodology used to test new medicines — in our evaluations. From welfare policy to high school reform, MDRC’s work has helped to shape legislation, program design, and operational practices across the country. Working in fields where emotion and ideology often dominate public debates, MDRC is a source of objective, unbiased evidence about cost-effective solutions that can be replicated and expanded to scale.
Over the years, MDRC has brought its unique approach to an ever-growing range of policy areas and target populations. Once known primarily for evaluations of state welfare-to-work programs, we also study public school reforms, employment programs for ex-prisoners and people with disabilities, and programs to help low-income people succeed in college. We are known not only for the high quality, integrity, and rigor of our research, but also for our commitment to building evidence and improving practice in partnership with school districts; community colleges; federal, state, and local governments; foundations; and community-based organizations.
MDRC has worked in nearly every state and most major cities, in Canada, and in the United Kingdom. We are funded by government agencies and some 70 private, family, and corporate foundations. With a staff of more than 250 in New York City and Oakland, California, MDRC is engaged in close to 80 projects in five policy areas: Families and Children; K-12 Education; PostSecondary Education; Youth Development, Criminal Justice, & Employment; and Low-Wage Workers and Communities.
MDRC was founded as the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation. However, in 2003, we made “MDRC” the registered corporate identity of our organization, thereby formally adopting the name by which we had become best known to our professional colleagues and the general public.