Sarah Weakley
Sarah Weakley
Social Policy School of Social and Political Science
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh UK
Youth Welfare states transition to adulthood poverty Quantitative Methods Longitudinal Data Analysis US domestic policy UK domestic policy

PhD Title

Young people’s transitions to economic independence and the role of government assistance: evidence from the US and the UK

Research Interests 

My research is focused on the impact of poverty reduction policies, implemented via government assistance between 16 and 24, on a young person's transition to economic independence in mid-life. This comparative work will focus on two countries that are often similarly categorised in welfare state literature - the United States and the United Kingdom - but which have very different policies and programmes of assistance and support on the ground. This research stands at the intersection of welfare state literature and youth transitions literature, with an eye towards measuring just how programmes of public assistance work  for low-income young people - a subpopulation that is rarely researched regarding their interaction with government programmes. With the current debate in the U.K. moving towards eliminating most public assistance to single young people altogether (already present in the U.S.), it is timely to empirically explore how benefit receipt impacts a young person's adulthood outcomes. This work also engages with the current debate on the function of government assistance altogether: do benefits (government transfers) serve as a temporary 'hand-up' and lead to income stability, or does receipt in youth begin the cycle of 'welfare dependency'? 

These questions were analysed quantitatively using longitudinal data - the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (U.S.) and the 1970 British Cohort Study.

This research at the University of Edinburgh concluded in 2018 and I graduated from the University of Edinburgh in July 2019. I now work at Policy Scotland at the University of Glasgow. If you would like to get in touch please email at 


Dr. Daniel Clegg (Social Policy) and Dr. Jan Eichhorn (Social Policy) 


PhD Social Policy, 2019, University of Edinburgh 

MRes Urban Studies (Merit), 2014, University of Glasgow 

Master of Public Administration (Distinction), 2012, George Washington University 

BA English Rhetoric and Professional Writing (Hons), 2008, Washington State University 


Principal's Career Development Scholarship (2014-2017)

Graduate School Scholarship (2014-2017)

Other Activities/Affiliations

Research Associate, What Works Scotland (Survey of Community Planning Officials 2018 led by Dr. Oliver Escobar, Politics and IR and WWS Director)

Research Assistant, Public understanding of health inequalities (Leverhulme Trust-funded research led by Dr. Kat Smith, Social Policy)

Tutor, Statistics for Social Science, Doing Survey Research, Social Policy and Society 

Co-Organiser, Childhood and Youth Studies Network 

Staff Writer, It Ain't Necessarily So

Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (PCDS project partner)