Economic and Social Disadvantage

This research program investigates the causes, conditions and consequences of poverty, economic inequality and social disadvantage.

Much of the program’s research focuses on disadvantaged families and considers how disadvantage is passed from one generation to the next. The program is part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course, a nationwide research initiative studying deep and persistent disadvantage in Australian families.

The program contributes to the development of efficient and appropriate policies that will reduce inequality, limit the time spent in vulnerable situations and break the cycle of disadvantage.

Current research topics include:

  • Personal and structural barriers to self-sufficiency
  • Welfare dependence
  • Family formation and dissolution
  • Effects of parental behaviour on children’s development
  • Economic decision-making within households
  • Food insecurity and other material hardships
  • Childhood circumstances and later life outcomes, and
  • Housing outcomes and homelessness.

Data and methodology

Members of the Economic and Social Disadvantage program undertake research using data from the HILDA Survey and from other Australian and international surveys.

They also draw on data from the Journeys Home Survey, a longitudinal study of Australians who are either homeless or at high risk of becoming homeless.

Many of the program’s projects develop new research datasets from administrative systems, including Australian public assistance payments systems, Victorian housing systems and international registries.

Broader roles

Members of the Economic and Social Disadvantage program work closely on administrative data projects with staff from the Australian Government’s Department of Social Services.

They also advise local, state, national and international agencies on topics related to economic and social disadvantage.

Program Details


Professor David Ribar


This program is funded through grants and research contracts provided by a variety of sources, including the ARC Centre of Excellence for Children and Families over the Life Course and the University of Melbourne.

Research staff


Recent publications