Virginia Knox became President of MDRC on October 15, 2019. Prior to being named president, Knox served as vice president and as leader of the organization’s Families and Children Policy Area. She brings 25 years of leadership in developing, evaluating, and improving social programs and contributing to new directions in research that can strengthen evidence-based policymaking. Throughout her career, Knox has designed evaluations that address questions of central interest to policymakers and practitioners and provide them with actionable conclusions. Much of her work has focused on how increased access to assistance for low-income parents — including child support, financial supports for work, and interventions to strengthen parental well-being, family relationships, and parenting — can improve the lives of both parents and children.
Studies she has led or co-led include MDRC’s evaluation of the Get Ready Guilford Initiative, the Building Bridges and Bonds evaluation, the Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation (MIHOPE), MIHOPE-Strong Start, the Supporting Healthy Marriage project, the Next Generation project, the evaluation of the Minnesota Family Investment Program, and the Parents’ Fair Share demonstration. Knox has direct experience with welfare systems, having been special assistant to the executive deputy commissioner for income maintenance in New York City’s Human Resources Administration, where her responsibilities included estimating the costs of welfare-reform programs. The author of numerous reports and papers, Knox has a doctorate in public policy from Harvard University.
MDRC PublicationsIssue FocusOctober, 2021
In this essay, MDRC President Virginia Knox describes two recent projects that have benefited from inviting the expertise of front-line staff members and program participants to inform how MDRC designs, implements, and writes about its work.Working Paper
Video Observations from the Just Beginning StudySeptember, 2021
The Just Beginning intervention aims to improve the quality of interactions between fathers with low incomes and their young children. Fathers participated in up to five sessions with their young children. This paper uses growth curve models to estimate patterns of change across the five sessions.Issue FocusMarch, 2021
In this essay, MDRC President Virginia Knox reflects on two important priorities for MDRC this year and beyond: building on our long-standing technical assistance efforts with private and public partners and making sure our work addresses racial equity.Issue FocusDecember, 2020
In this commentary originally published in Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity, MDRC President Virginia Knox explains that public and philanthropic investments have built a foundation of evidence that can inform decision makers as they work to build economic mobility and reduce inequality.Issue Focus
Looking Ahead to “In Practice” Blog Posts in 2020January, 2020
MDRC launched the In Practice blog in April 2019, to reflect lessons learned from program managers and staff in various partnerships. Posts in 2020 include Designing Programs Around Real People’s Real Needs, How to Use Data to Improve Programs, Making Evidence-Based Practices a Priority, and Improving Programs by Improving Training.Report
Results from the Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program EvaluationJanuary, 2019
Home visiting provides information, resources, and support to expectant low-income parents and low-income families with young children. This report provides the final results from a national evaluation of four major evidence-based models of home visiting.Brief
A Summary of Results from the MIHOPE and MIHOPE-Strong Start Studies of Evidence-Based Home VisitingJanuary, 2019
Home visiting provides information, resources, and support to expectant low-income parents and low-income families with young children. This brief summarizes reports from two national studies of early childhood home visiting.Report
The Effects of Home Visiting on Prenatal Health, Birth Outcomes, and Health Care Use in the First Year of Life
Final Implementation and Impact Findings from the Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation-Strong StartJanuary, 2019
MIHOPE-Strong Start rigorously examined the effects of home visiting services, as provided by 66 local programs in 17 states, on outcomes such as low birth weight, preterm birth, and infant health care use. This final report details those effects as well as the services received by families in the programs.Report
Results from the Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program EvaluationOctober, 2018
Adverse experiences in children’s earliest years can negatively affect development. Home visiting for expectant parents and families with young children can help, but implementation research is scant. MIHOPE, a national evaluation of a federal home visiting program, is examining 88 local programs across four evidence-based models to learn about their implementation and impacts.Issue FocusFebruary, 2018
Identifying and spreading effective policies and programs involves a cycle of implementation, adaptation, and evidence-building. Implementation research plays a central role in understanding and improving interventions at each stage of the cycle.Working PaperJanuary, 2018
This working paper (forthcoming in July 2018 as a chapter in The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science) updates the existing pipeline paradigm for evidence building with a cyclical paradigm that encompasses evidence building, implementation, and adaptation.Report
Early Findings on the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program — A Report to CongressJanuary, 2015
This report presents the first findings from MIHOPE, the legislatively mandated national evaluation of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program. It includes an analysis of the states’ needs assessments, as well as baseline characteristics of families, staff, local programs, and models participating in the study.Report
Final Impacts from the Supporting Healthy Marriage EvaluationJanuary, 2014
Supporting Healthy Marriage (SHM) was a yearlong voluntary marriage education program to help strengthen couples’ relationships. SHM had small sustained positive effects on marital quality more than a year after the program ended but did not achieve its objectives of leading more couples to stay together or improving children’s well-being.ReportDecember, 2013
MIHOPE-Strong Start, a collaboration of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Administration for Children and Families, and the Health Resources and Services Administration, assesses the impacts of home visiting programs for disadvantaged expectant mothers. This report describes the study and the programs: Healthy Families America and Nurse-Family Partnership.ReportApril, 2013
Home visiting programs seek to improve maternal and child outcomes by supporting families with young children. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 included $1.5 billion for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, with a national evaluation required. This report describes the design of that evaluation.ReportAugust, 2012
Eight programs, in various settings, successfully implemented a voluntary package of relationship skills services for low-income married couples with children, engaging a diverse group of couples who participated for eight months on average. A companion report finds that the programs produced a pattern of small, positive effects on couples’ relationships after 12 months.ReportFebruary, 2012
This report, which presents 12-month impact results from a demonstration designed to strengthen marriages among low-income married couples with children, shows that the program produced a consistent pattern of small, positive effects on multiple aspects of couples’ relationships, including measures of relationship quality, psychological and physical abuse, and adult individual psychological distress.ReportSeptember, 2010
An important first hurdle for voluntary programs is recruiting and retaining eligible participants. This report describes how ten Supporting Healthy Marriage programs focused on developing effective marketing strategies, keeping couples engaged in the program, and building management systems. These efforts resulted in encouraging early levels of participation by low-income couples.Working Paper
What Do We Know and What Do We Need to Know?April, 2010
This working paper, prepared for a conference sponsored by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reviews evidence about the effectiveness of two strategies to strengthen family relationships and fathers’ involvement with their children: fatherhood programs aimed at disadvantaged noncustodial fathers and relationship skills programs for parents who are together.Working PaperAugust, 2008
This working paper introduces the Supporting Healthy Marriage evaluation, the first large-scale, multisite experiment that is testing voluntary marriage education programs for low-income married couples with children in eight sites across the country. The year-long programs consist of a series of marriage education workshops with additional family support services and referrals.Brief
The Role of Informal Care in the Lives of Low-Income Women and ChildrenOctober, 2003
Drawing on ethnographic interviews, this policy brief describes the patchwork child care arrangements made by low-income parents and discusses implications for policies that would promote the dual objectives of child well-being and parental employment.Working Paper
The Effects of Welfare Reform Policies on Marriage and CohabitationApril, 2003Report
A Synthesis of ResearchMay, 2002
The latest research synthesis from the Next Generation project takes a closer look at troubling findings regarding the effects of welfare and work programs on the teenaged children of program enrollees.Brief
Lessons for TANF ReauthorizationMarch, 2002Report
Final Lessons from Parents’ Fair ShareNovember, 2001
Fathers provide important financial and emotional support to their children. Yet low-income noncustodial fathers, with low wages and high rates of joblessness, often do not fulfill their parenting roles. The child support system has not traditionally helped these men to do so, since its focus has been on securing financial support from fathers who can afford to pay.Report
The Impact of Parents’ Fair Share on Paternal InvolvementOctober, 2000Report
Implementation and Interim Impacts of Parents’ Fair ShareSeptember, 1998Report
Implementation and 18-Month Impacts of the Minnesota Family Investment ProgramJanuary, 1997
ProjectsDina A. R. Israel, Xavier Alemañy, Rebecca Behrmann, Emily Brennan, Virginia Knox, Michelle S. Manno, Emily Marano, Meghan McCormick, Charles Michalopoulos, Frieda Molina, Diego Quezada, Keri West, Samantha Wulfsohn, Donna Wharton-Fields
Over the last three decades, MDRC has established itself as a leader in providing technical assistance to organizations that deliver services to fathers through such projects as Parents’ Fair Share , Healthy Marriage and Responsible Fatherhood ( HMRF ) Training and Technical Assistance , Strengthening the Implementation of Responsible Fatherhood Programs ( SIRF ) , and...Virginia Knox, Carolyn Hill, Shira Kolnik Mattera, Desiree Principe Alderson, Rebecca Davis, Helen Lee
Across the United States, children’s life prospects are substantially shaped by their circumstances between birth and age 3. The earliest years of life, then, may present this country’s best opportunity to disrupt cycles of poverty. In the American South, children of low-income families acutely experience the disadvantages of poverty, and they disproportionately remain...
Child First is a comprehensive, home-based, therapeutic intervention that targets young children and families with multiple risks and connects them with the services they need to support healthy child development. An earlier randomized controlled trial of Child First in one location showed that the program improved children’s social-emotional skills and language...Jean Grossman, Dan Bloom, Barbara S. Goldman, John Hutchins, Jared Smith, Frieda Molina, Virginia Knox, Clinton Key, Bret Barden, Jessica Kopsic, Rebecca Schwartz, Emily Marano, Sophia Sutcliffe, Helen Lee
Many human services programs require that applicants complete a series of steps — from providing eligibility to arranging transportation and child care — in order to benefit from services. Program designers often assume that individuals carefully consider their options and make the best decisions for their personal circumstances. Over the past 30 years, however,...Dina A. R. Israel, Michelle S. Manno, Dan Bloom, JoAnn Hsueh, Charles Michalopoulos, Virginia Knox, Erika Lundquist, Electra Small, Rebecca Behrmann, Samantha Wulfsohn, Douglas Phillips, Patrizia Mancini, Emily Brennan, Jillian Verrillo, Bret Barden, Kureem Nugent
Fathers play a unique role in their children’s lives and development, but some fathers face personal or societal barriers to positive involvement with their children — such as low levels of education, stigma from criminal records, declining wages for low-skilled men, or family instability. Responsible Fatherhood programs aim to improve the well-being of low-income...Virginia Knox, Charles Michalopoulos, JoAnn Hsueh, Desiree Principe Alderson, Dina A. R. Israel, Erika Lundquist, Electra Small, Rebecca Behrmann, Anne Warren, Samantha Xia, Kelly Saunders, Ilana Blum, Jessica Kopsic, Noemi Altman, Caroline Mage, Helen Lee
Adverse birth outcomes result in significant emotional and economic costs for families and communities. One promising avenue for helping expectant women is home visiting programs, which work with parents to promote prenatal care and improve infant health. The Mother and Infant Home Visiting Program Evaluation-Strong Start ( MIHOPE -Strong Start) will evaluate the...Virginia Knox, Charles Michalopoulos, JoAnn Hsueh, Desiree Principe Alderson, Dina A. R. Israel, Erika Lundquist, Electra Small, Carolyn Hill, Rebecca Behrmann, Ximena Portilla, Anne Warren, Samantha Xia, Kelly Saunders, Ilana Blum, Mallory Undestad, Emily Davies, Cullen MacDowell, Marissa Strassberger, Sharon Rowser, Livia Martinez, Helen Lee
Home visiting programs operate around the country to prevent child maltreatment, improve maternal and child health outcomes, and increase school readiness. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 authorized the creation of the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting ( MIECHV ) program, expanding federal funding of home visiting programs....
Beginning in the 1990s, the “Make Work Pay” experiments tested whether offering earnings supplements would increase employment and income and improve family well-being among welfare recipients. The experiments responded to a fundamental challenge: Low-wage jobs often leave families only barely better off financially than even subsistence-level welfare benefits. As a...
A central challenge in welfare policy arises from the dual imperatives to promote self-sufficiency among welfare recipients and to protect vulnerable families from economic deprivation. In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, the U.S. moved to expand the services it offered recipients to help them prepare for and find work, while also expanding the mandates on...Virginia Knox, Charles Michalopoulos, Electra Small, Evan Weissman, Erika Lundquist, Sharon Rowser
Home visiting has grown in recent decades as a strategy for providing preventive services to families with young children. Federal, state, local, and private funders have supported programs operating in thousands of communities around the country. Several programs are widely disseminated in the United States, with different programs focusing on slightly different...
In the mid-1980s, three developments long in the making — a dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock childbearing, the high cost of providing welfare to young poor women who become mothers, and the difficulties faced by their children — became a focus of concern among policymakers and the public alike. Little was known at the time about how to help young mothers receiving...Cynthia Miller, Virginia Knox, Sharon Rowser
Policy debates about child poverty and welfare reform, which once focused almost exclusively on single mothers and their children, have in recent years begun to train the spotlight on fathers. Fathers are important sources of financial and emotional support for their children, but noncustodial fathers with low incomes and poor job prospects often do not fulfill their...JoAnn Hsueh, Virginia Knox, Desiree Principe Alderson, Barbara S. Goldman, Erika Lundquist, Charles Michalopoulos, Electra Small, Kristen Faucetta , Meghan McCormick, Noemi Altman, Sharon Rowser, Amy Taub, Helen Lee
The Supporting Healthy Marriage project is the first large-scale, multisite, multiyear, rigorous test of marriage education programs for low-income married couples. Supported by the Administration for Children and Families within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ( HHS ), the project is motivated by research that indicates that married adults...
The welfare system has been transformed over the past two decades, notably through the introduction of stricter work requirements and time limits on cash assistance in the 1990s. At the same time, government at both the federal and the state level invested in offering financial work supports of unprecedented scope to low-income parents. A top priority on the national...
A long-standing dilemma in welfare policy is that while cash benefits reduce poverty, they can also discourage low-income parents from supporting their families through work. Conversely, work requirements like those introduced in the 1996 federal welfare law encourage employment but — given that many welfare recipients command only low wages — can also leave families...