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Jefferson, Ph.D.

Senior Associate

Since 2011, Dr. Anna Jefferson has spent her career in policy research creatively and rigorously applying ethnographic, participatory, and community-based methods to make policy research more person-centered. She is a subject matter expert in guaranteed income, inequality, consumer finance, and U.S. housing policy, and a fluent Spanish speaker. She co-leads Abt’s portfolio of guaranteed income evaluations and has worked extensively with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Housing and Urban Development, New York City Mayor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, and a range of philanthropic clients. Dr. Jefferson is an experienced principal investigator, project director and task leader, and co-leads Abt's qualitative and mixed methods affinity group. 

Dr. Jefferson currently leads projects evaluating guaranteed income programs and supporting the practice of financial education. As a co-Principal Investigator on Abt’s guaranteed income evaluations, she provides leadership on research design, training and support to community-based research fellows, and guidance and quality assurance on qualitative analysis, mixed methods synthesis, and report writing. She has played key roles on a series of projects for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to develop and qualitatively user test financial education materials for professionals to use with their clients. Additional recent work for Abt includes an applied ethnographic study for the Department of Housing and Urban Development about the experiences of participants in rapid re-housing programs and on lived experiences of poverty in New York City.

Prior to joining Abt, Dr. Jefferson conducted 20 months of ethnographic research for her dissertation with American homeowners facing foreclosure and participating in the Home Affordable Modification Program and other foreclosure relief programs. Through participant observation and interviews, she found that the threat of foreclosure thwarted attempts at upward mobility and undermined belief in the American dream. She also served for four years as the managing editor of the Gendered Perspectives on International Development, the longest-running peer-reviewed publication on gender and international development.


  • Qualitative methods
  • Project management
  • Writing and presentation
  • Translating research to practice

Key Projects


  • Jefferson, Anna and Hannah Thomas. (2020) Mortgage Journeys: A Video Ethnography of the Homebuying and Mortgage Process. Cityscape 22(1):7-36. 
  • Jefferson, Anna. (2015) “Not what it used to be”: Schemas of Class and Contradiction in the Great Recession. Economic Anthropology 2(2):310-325. 
  • Joanna Lucio, Anna Jefferson & Laura Peck. (2015) Dreaming the Impossible Dream: Low-Income Families and Their Hopes for the Future, Journal of Poverty.
  • Schuetz, Jenny, Jonathan Spader, Jennifer Lewis Buell, Kimberly Burnett, Larry Buron, Alvaro Cortes, Michael DiDomenico, Anna Jefferson, Christian Redfearn, Stephen Whitlow (2015). “Investing in Distressed Communities: Outcomes From the Neighborhood Stabilization Program,” Cityscape 17(2): 279-306.
  • Jefferson, Anna. (2013). Narratives of Moral Order in Michigan’s Foreclosure Crisis. City & Society 25(1):92-112.
Anna Jefferson