Model & Strategy

The Problem

In the 15 years leading up to the creation of the Child Poverty Action Lab (CPAL), Dallas, Texas, saw the number of children within the city living in poverty increase by 42% while its overall population grew by only 4%. Today, Dallas has the third highest rate of child poverty among major U.S. cities (population of over 1M), with one out of every four children growing up in poverty. While research shows clear linkages between the place a child is born and the socioeconomic circumstances that surround a child, past approaches to address poverty have too often used data to “admire the problem” rather than apply data to on-the-ground solutions that can provide children with the opportunity for economic mobility. While many government programs and nonprofits exist to address poverty, they often address just one particular aspect of the issue or don’t lead to immediate implementation at the local level.

The Solution

Child Poverty Action Lab aims to reduce child poverty by 50% in a generation. CPAL works as a local convener, data analyst, and broker to provide concrete solutions to government and community partners for immediate implementation. CPAL and its partners work relentlessly to create upward mobility for children living in poverty, over three in four of whom are Black or Hispanic. In practice, CPAL operates as Dallas’ unofficial R&D department with three key principles underlying the approach:

  • Design for scale: Child poverty is a problem of massive scale and necessarily requires the magnitude of government resourcing to power solutions of equal scale. CPAL intentionally brings together each quarter the administrative CEOs of nine public agencies with a collective annual operating budget of over $10M to align resources and take action on scalable strategies.
  • Center on evidence: A strong understanding of child poverty’s root causes and the highest-impact levers to address them inform solutions. CPAL’s commitment to rigor is apparent in its developing and applying an evidence-based outcomes framework of five issue-centered big bets, which were all selected based on leading longitudinal evidence and potential for actionable progress.
  • Power with community expertise: The residents within communities can highlight patterns and actionable insights based on lived experience that are not otherwise visible when relying only on a fact-base of “big data” and peer-reviewed research. By empowering those residents with tools, resources, and access to systems leaders, CPAL unlocks the community’s greatest opportunity for ultimate success.

In the years ahead, CPAL plans to take the applied data practices that have been most impactful to their mission in Dallas, ranging from eviction prevention to neighborhood-based public safety, and package them into replicable playbooks for installation in neighborhoods and municipalities across the nation.

At a Glance
Founded: 2018
Founder & CEO: Alan Cohen
Economic Empowerment
Location of work: Domestic, Southwest
Child Poverty Action Lab
Dallas, TX
Big bets for economic mobility.
Meet Alan Cohen

Alan has dedicated his career to breaking intergenerational poverty and promoting economic mobility. His expertise has earned him various appointed positions, including co-chair of the Dallas Mayor’s Task Force on Safe Communities and member of the Mayor’s Steering Committee on Workforce Development. He is involved in several advisory and governing boards, including United To Learn, Dallas Thrives, Groundwork Dallas, and the Commit Partnership. He holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and a B.A. in sociology from Tulane University.


A sample of CPAL’s applied data work: CPAL developed a new data-sharing infrastructure to deliver daily reports on eviction filings to aid frontline providers supporting renters in need of rent relief and legal aid. Before this, eviction data was not publicly available, so providers could not proactively help vulnerable tenants.

Since CPAL’s inception, Dallas has reduced the rate of child poverty faster than any other major U.S. city, significantly outpacing peer cities across Texas.