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Chi-Fang Wu

PhD Program Director, Professor

Headshot of Chi-Fang Wu


(217) 333-2261

School of Social Work
1010 W. Nevada St.
Urbana, IL 61801
Office: 2000J

Areas of focus



Dr. Wu received her master’s degree in social work from National Taiwan University in 1993 and her PhD in social work from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004. She worked as a policy planner and evaluator at Research, Development, and Evaluation Commission, Executive Yuan or Cabinet in Taiwan after she received her master’s degree. She joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in August 2005 after working as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has taught courses in social welfare planning, policy practice and practice, PhD social welfare policy, program evaluation, and social work research methods.


Dr. Wu’s research and practice interests include poverty, social welfare policy, the impact of welfare reform on low-income families, access to public benefits and support services for low-income families, and program evaluation. She has focused her research agenda on three distinct yet interrelated topics: (1) the effects of financial sanctions on the well-being of welfare participants; (2) access to public benefits and related supports for low-income families; and (3) the long-term employment and earnings trajectories of at-risk families.

Her overarching interest is in assessing the effectiveness of different strategies for promoting economic advancement. Her research has made contributions in identifying the dynamics and effects of welfare sanctions, and in understanding whether and how public and private assistance helps low-income families meet their basic needs. Her research has also contributed to our understanding of the mechanisms and pathways to employment and earnings success, and to developing a conceptual approach to categorizing employment and earnings trajectories among low-income families. She has extensive experience analyzing complex, longitudinal, state administrative data and national, population-based data using sophisticated statistical methods.

Dr. Wu is currently working on research projects on unemployment and underemployment. She is examining differences in employment problems, poverty status, and receipt of public and private assistance in low-income, single mother families in periods before, during, and after an economic downturn. She is also interested in investigating the effects of unemployment and underemployment on the well-being of both single-mother and two-parent families, and determining whether and how the coping resources and strategies used by these families mediate and/or moderate relationships between employment problems and family well-being.

Furthermore, she is currently the PI for an interdisciplinary research project entitled “A social work and engineering pilot study on water treatment in rural communities in Guatemala.” She is collaborating with faculty and students from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at University of Illinois, and Wuqu’ Kawoq, a non-profit non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides health care services to indigenous communities in Guatemala. Using the mixed methods, they are investigating social-cultural barriers hinders the use of water treatment projects in Guatemala and evaluating its health impacts on the residents.

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