Karen Dolan is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. Karen holds an M.A. With Highest Distinction in Philosophy and Social Policy from the American University in Washington DC.

Karen joined IPS in 1996. Her public scholarship and activism at IPS has linked community-led organizations with social movements and policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. The focus of her work is on anti-poverty issues, juvenile justice, criminal justice reform, and transgender rights with a focus on race, gender, and gender identity. Karen currently directs the Criminalization of Race and Poverty project.

Some of Karen’s publications include: Mothers at the Gate: How a powerful family movement is transforming the juvenile justice system; The Poor Get Prison: The alarming spread of the criminalization of povertyClosing the Inequality DivideBattered By The Storm: How the Safety Net is Failing Americans and How to Fix itWe’re Not BrokeOur Communities are Not for SalePaying the Price: the Mounting Costs of War in IraqForeign Policy Goes Local; and she was a contributor for Mandate for Change.

Karen blogs for Huffington Post and regularly appears in other media outlets. Karen serves on the boards of The Participatory Budgeting Project, The Liberty Tree Foundation and Jobs With Justice Worker Rights Board.

Areas of Expertise

  • Progressive movement, policymakers
  • Poverty, economic hardship
  • Criminalization of race and poverty
  • Juvenile justice; criminal justice reform
  • Gender and gender identity; transgender rights
  • Cost of war and militarism at home


Poverty Made an Alarming Jump. Congress Should Have Stopped It.

It’s time for policymakers to listen to American workers and families instead of billionaires and corporate bosses.

Poverty spiked sharply in the U.S. in 2022 after having declined in 2021

SPM data shows a historically steep increase of 4.6 percentage points from 7.8% to 12.4% . “The stark contrast paints a vivid picture of the ways in which poverty is a political choice, not a personal one.”

Affirmative Action Has Ended, but the Need for Diversity Hasn’t

Protecting diversity on campus creates better paths to opportunity for students of every race. The question now is to figure out how.

Criminalization of Race and Poverty Program at the Institute for Policy Studies Responds to the Debt Ceiling Deal

“It makes it harder for poor and low-income families to access food benefits they deserve, while making it easier for wealthy people to cheat on their taxes.”

Raise the Debt Ceiling, and Invest in America

The debt ceiling is an arcane artifice without a real connection to the economy. But how well we invest in our families and workers directly relates to it.

The Human Cost of McCarthy’s Debt Ceiling Demands Would Be Catastrophic

McCarthy and his caucus are holding American families and the global economy hostage to his demands to slash vital social programs.

When ‘Decorum’ Means ‘Mob Rule,’ It’s Time to Break It.

In Tennessee and Montana, Republicans silenced the voices of three young lawmakers because they dared to challenge the undemocratic status quo.

A Parents Bill of Rights for the Rest of Us

The book bans, censorship, and attacks on LGBTQ kids that the GOP calls “parents rights” are way out of step with American families.

Biden’s Budget Would Level the Playing Field and Reduce the Deficit

The president’s plan for jobs, families, and health reflects the things most of us value. But it should spend more on those and less on the Pentagon.

Criminalization of Poverty Program at IPS’s Statement on President Biden’s Budget

“As an expression of values, its proposals to invest in families and workers, protect Social Security, and strengthen Medicare reflect the values of most of us.”

Cuts to SNAP Benefits Will Push Millions Over the Hunger Cliff

This is a critical moment for our nation. We must not allow struggling workers or our children, grandparents and disabled loved ones to fall back into hunger.

President Biden: Don’t Negotiate With Fiscal Terrorists

If Biden gives in, he’ll be as much to blame for a possible recession and spiking economic hardship as McCarthy and his party of extremists will be.

Biden Presented a Bold Agenda. Can He Back It Up?

The president had much to celebrate in his State of the Union address. But to finish the job, he needs to take executive action.

An absurd issue demands an absurd solution: Let’s mint a bazillion-dollar coin to bring the curtain down forever on the Republicans’ farcical debt-ceiling theater

Congressional Republicans don’t want fiscal responsibility. They want to destroy the government’s ability to improve the lives of American citizens.

Gen Z Voters Are a Force for Progressive Politics. Can Politicians Keep Up?

Young voters are repelled by the far right, but that doesn’t mean they’ll always show up for squishy centrists

Four options for Democrats to avert another debt ceiling crisis

The debt ceiling has one use: helping extremists take our seniors, veterans, and kids hostage to political demands. Congress should abolish it now.

Americans of every race deserve a fair shot. Affirmative action provides one.

Far too many are denied this chance simply because of the color of their skin.

These midterm elections have enormous stakes for poor and low-income Americans

Our country faces a material and moral crisis – and Republicans are offering only resentment and false solutions.

The data is in: Poverty is a political choice

Common sense federal investments caused poverty to plunge during the pandemic shock. If we fail to renew them, we’re choosing poverty.

Biden’s Inflation Bill Is (Mostly) Good News for People and the Planet

But it needs to be a first step, not the last.

Project Director

Criminalization of Race and Poverty

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Community Policing, Criminal Justice, Families of Incarcerated, Juvenile Justice, Local Democracy, Mass Incarceration LGBTQIA, Participatory Budgeting, Race and Poverty, Racial Justice

The Rich Smith Show

The Rick Smith Show | April 19, 2023

Buzz – 3-22-23 – Karen Dolan

WORT-FM | March 22, 2023

Dolan Reviews State Of The Union Address

WORT-FM | February 15, 2023

KPFA Evening News

KPFA Evening News | February 11, 2023