About the Center for Women's Welfare

Founded in 2002, the Center for Women’s Welfare’s (CWW) serves as a resource and research center to support the continued development and refinement of the Self-Sufficiency Standard, related research, tools and products.    


The Center for Women’s Welfare mission is to further the goal of economic justice for women and their families by researching questions involving the measurement of poverty and income adequacy, as well as related policy analysis and development.


The Self-Sufficiency Standard was first proposed by Dr. Pearce in an Agenda for Improving Job Training and Vocational Education for Women and Girls (published in 1992 by Women Work!), which outlined various strategies for improving job training programs and outcomes for low-income women. The real-world application of this concept and the development of the methodology first occurred in the spring of 1996 in direct response to a request from the state of Iowa, which commissioned the first actual statewide calculation of the Standard. Since then the Standard has been calculated for 42 states and the District of Columbia, all by or under the direction of Dr. Pearce, initially in partnership with Wider Opportunities for Women under a start-up grant funded by the Ford Foundation and since 1998 at the University of Washington.

Current Projects

The primary work of the Center for Women’s Welfare is the calculation of the Self-Sufficiency Standard. The Standard creates “bare bones” family budgets that detail the minimum amount of income required by families to meet their basic needs without public or private assistance. 

In addition to calculating the Standard, the CWW researches how many households are below the Standard in a given state, as well as, a wide array of household characteristics, including race, age of children, occupation, marital status, employment patterns, citizenship, and gender. The Standard is also the basis of online calculators that facilitate access to work supports for low-income families and enable individuals to design strategies and budgets that enable them to reach self-sufficiency. 

CWW partners with a range of government, non-profit, women’s, children’s, and community-based groups, from workforce councils to state and federal agencies, as well as a variety of anti-poverty and economic opportunity initiatives.