Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Date Available


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration

Committee Chair

Dr. JS Butler

Executive Summary

In order to better understand our society and institutions, we can look at the relationships between institutions, social infrastructure, and human conditions. Social and institutional networks can influence the flow of resources on a scale that individuals cannot. These structures can perpetuate or alleviate social and human conditions but, alternatively, social conditions can mobilize and influence institutional structures. As systemic poverty remains a social issue, various US programs and forms of aid continue to be delivered despite limiting and varying levels of success. One such mode of aid is provided by nonprofits. Studies have shown that nonprofits empirically do very little to alleviate poverty. Instead they behave more as temporary relief programs, providing some basic and fundamental services but not enough to make large strides in reducing poverty. Given this research and others that have examined this relationship as a top-down system where nonprofit actions influence poverty, this research is focused on considering the opposite model. Perhaps instead, poverty is a driver for institutional change. Given a societal problem, the problem itself could influence structures and the flow of resources from a bottom-up perspective. This research evaluates whether poverty is correlated to the activities of nonprofits and the relationship between the two. An empirical model examines the role of poverty on the activities of community-based nonprofits and whether nonprofits are responding to poverty. The data examined include a nationwide survey of community-based nonprofits organized at a microscale. The results show that given last year’s poverty, there is an increase in nonprofit activity this year, exhibiting a strong, positive relationship between the two. This research suggests that community-based relief may instead be a response to poverty regardless of whether nonprofits are effective in reducing poverty.



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