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Faculty & Staff

Laura Cuesta

Assistant Professor, Social Work

PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison MA, Universidad de los Andes

Dr. Cuesta’s research interests include international approaches to child and family policy, poverty and inequality, and parental incarceration among disadvantaged families.


Professor Cuesta first became interested in disadvantaged families with children while growing up in Barrancabermeja, a town with high income inequality in her native Colombia.

Her passion for studying the role of social policy in the wellbeing of these populations was further developed through her work at the National Planning Department and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Colombia, and the research training she received at Universidad de los Andes (M. A. and B.A. in Economics) and the University of Wisconsin–Madison (Ph.D. in Social Welfare).

These experiences focused her attention to the disproportionally high number of single-mother families living in poverty in the United States and Colombia, and the dearth of knowledge on the role of child support policies in less developed countries. Dr. Cuesta’s pioneering work on child support in Colombia offers the opportunity for improving our current understanding of these issues in the context of developing countries. Her research centers on the effects of social policies on the well-being of disadvantaged families with children. Her current projects examine the effects of child support policy; international approaches to child support; and the intersection of the criminal justice and child protective services systems.

Selected Recent Publications: 

Cuesta, Laura, Vanessa Ríos-Salas, and Daniel R Meyer. 2017. “The Impact of Family Change on Income Poverty in Colombia and Peru.” Forthcoming in Journal of Comparative Family Studies.

Berger, Lawrence M., Maria Cancian, Laura Cuesta, and Jennifer Noyes. (2016). Families at the Intersection of the Criminal Justice and Child Protective Services Systems. ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 665, 171-194. DOI: 10.1177/0002716216633058

Berger, Lawrence M., J. Michael Collins, and Laura Cuesta. (2016). “Household Debt and Adult Depressive Symptoms in the United States” Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 37: 42-57. DOI 10.1007/s10834-015-9443-6.

Cuesta, Laura and Maria Cancian. (2015). “The Effect of Child Support on the Labor Supply of Custodial Mothers Participating in TANF”. Children and Youth Services Review, 54:49-56 (Condensed version appears as La Follette Policy Report 25(1):16-18)

Cuesta, Laura. (2014). “Child Support and Food Insecurity among Custodial-Mother Families in Colombia” Journal of Family Studies, 20(3): 286-297.

Cuesta, Laura and Daniel R. Meyer. (2014). “The Role of Child Support in the Economic Wellbeing of Custodial-Mother Families in Less Developed Countries: The Case of Colombia” International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 28(1): 60-76.

Cuesta, Laura and Daniel R. Meyer. (2012). “Child Support Receipt: Does Context Matter? A Comparative Analysis of Colombia and the US.” Children and Youth Services Review, 34(9): 1876-1883.

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