For 50 years, MDRC has been a leader in developing and applying evidence to improve policies and programs that serve people with low incomes.
The Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation was founded in 1974 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization by the Ford Foundation and a group of federal agencies to run an ambitious, five-year, $50-million demonstration project called Supported Work. Testing whether employment programs could improve outcomes for people with a variety of disadvantages, the project developed 15 separate organizations across the country, each with its own board and staff and budget, to train and employ participants with little or no prior labor market experience. MDRC ran the demonstration as an intermediary, providing technical assistance to the social enterprises. That initial project led to a second large demonstration, the Youth Incentive Entitlement Pilot Projects, in the late 1970s, and the emergence of MDRC as an important technical assistance provider and research organization.
Over the years, MDRC became known for combining rigorous impact and implementation research with on-the-ground operational expertise to deliver policy-relevant findings to decisionmakers. In the 1980s and early 1990s, MDRC conducted evaluations of state welfare-to-work programs that influenced policy reforms. In the 1990s and early 2000s, MDRC expanded into education policy research—developing demonstration and research projects in the early education, K-12, and postsecondary education spheres. In recent years, MDRC has expanded into new domains, including criminal justice, behavioral science, and data analytics.
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 more than 100 private, family, and corporate foundations. 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.
Today, MDRC has more than 300 staff members and offices in New York City, Oakland and Los Angeles, California, and Washington, DC. MDRC is engaged in nearly 100 projects in five policy areas—Family Well-Being and Children’s Development; K-12 Education; Postsecondary Education; Youth Development, Criminal Justice, and Employment; and Economic Mobility, Housing, and Communities—and in two centers, the Center for Applied Behavioral Science and the Center for Data Insights.