Projects & Research

Every year, CCRE conducts hundreds of program evaluations and other social science research and evaluation projects for our community partners. Learn more about our work by reviewing our latest annual report!

Highlighted Collaborations

  • We evaluate over thirty programs for Delta Health Alliance, including two cradle-to-career Promise Communities and numerous public health interventions in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. Click here to learn more.
  • Learn about our efforts to leverage both data science and qualitative research to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Through the NIH-funded Partnership to Optimize Equity in Maternal and Infant Health, we are a key partner in implementing and evaluating structural interventions to improve maternal and infant health in the Mississippi Delta.
  • We administer the Economic Development Administration's $21.5 million Upskill Mid-South project to provide rapid credentialing options and improve the region's labor force readiness.
  • In 2022, CCRE data scientists developed a workforce pathways dashboard for the Greater Memphis Chamber.
  • We completed a comprehensive report assessing the status of the state's labor force for the Tennessee Business Leadership Council.
  • We conducted research critical to the award of GROWWTH, the largest grant in the history of the University with potential to transform the lives of thousands of TANF-eligible West Tennessee residents.
  • CCRE led the implementation of the Shelby County Water Survey.


When the results of our evaluations have relevance to the broader philanthropic and academic communities, we believe that disseminating the findings in academic journals and other outlets can be a viable strategy for having a bigger impact and promoting the sustainability of the partner's programming.

CCRE projects have led to the following academic publications.

  • Meador, J. E., James, W., Branson, J., Bennett, J., and Matthews, K. 2023. "COVID-19 Pandemic and the Social Determinants of Health." Frontiers in Epidemiology 3:1139371.
    • Hesitancy to receive a COVID-19 vaccination across sub-groups within the US population contributed to higher illness rates and deaths. Specifically, minority groups and those living in rural and remote areas are more vaccine-hesitant populations known to suffer from higher disparities in health. Identifying successful and replicable approaches to promoting vaccination within these subpopulations is critical to ensuring vaccination rates can be maximized in these vulnerable groups. In this paper, we present findings from the Mississippi Recognizing Important Vaccine & Education Resources (RIVERs) project, a multi-state effort to spread accurate information related to COVID-19 vaccinations using a variety of community and media-based methods as well as provide vaccinations. Vaccination rates for Black people in Mississippi exceeded those of White people, likely due to the concerted effort of regional health and community organizations. Propensity score matching is performed to test intervention styles using spatial and temporal data related to approximately 7,000 events across Mississippi and parts of Tennessee and publicly available data on vaccination rates and socio-economic data. We demonstrate that vaccination rates within the vulnerable groups may be closely related to misinformation being spread through local social networks and that interventions carried out by local leaders with high levels of local social capital are best at quashing misinformation at the local level. We recommend that policymakers consider the importance of local efforts as an effective tool in increasing vaccination rates in future pandemics.
  • King, C., Arthur, R., Bennett, J., James, W., Matthews, K. 2021. "Evaluation of a Peer Led Comprehensive Sexual Health Program for College Teens". American Journal of Sexuality Education 16.4: 533-553.
    • The study evaluated safe sex attitudes and intentions from a comprehensive, peer-led sexual health program for teenage students enrolled in three rural colleges in Mississippi. The methods consisted of pretest and posttest survey items regarding attitudes and intentions toward safe sex from 149 participants and a peer educator focus group on curriculum delivery and participation. Intentions and motivations for contraception and sexual risk awareness significantly improved at posttest for all participants. The focus group suggested that peer-led approaches are critical for engaging students, fostering participation, and addressing students’ sexual health needs in culturally sensitive ways.
  • Holmes, E., Campbell, M., James, W., Matthews, K. 2021. "'Sow, Grow, Know, and Show': The Impact of School Gardens on Student Self-Perception in the Mississippi Delta." Ecology of Food and Nutrition 60.2: 140-162.
    • This research evaluates the impact of participation in school garden programs on fifth grade student garden knowledge, self-perception, and standardized test scores in the Mississippi Delta. We collected pre and posttest participant data for two years, compared garden participants’ standardized test scores with non-participants, and conducted participant observation and interviews in three school gardens for eight months during the 2017–2018 school year. While no effect on standardized test scores could be determined, students increased garden knowledge and reported feeling positive about their future, teamwork, and leadership ability. These results were supported by observations of student joy, confidence, leadership, and teamwork.
  • Bennett, J., James, W., Joyner, C., King, C., Matthews, K. 2020. "Teen Pregnancy Programs and Their Lasting Effects in Teens: Evidence from a Collaborative in the Mississippi Delta." In: Jivetti, B., Hoque, M. (eds), Population Change and Public Policy. Applied Demography Series, vol 11. Springer.
    • We test the effectiveness of Delta Futures, a comprehensive regional effort to improve the quality of teen pregnancy programming in thirteen counties of the Mississippi Delta, in changing attitudes, motivations, and self-reported intentions relating to abstinence, contraception, and sexual risk. Our analysis of survey assessments from over 3,000 participants reveals several findings relevant for practitioners of teen pregnancy programs and collaboratives: (1) Overall, we find evidence that the program improves participants' willingness to commit to using birth control, but not to pursue abstinence; (2) Abstinence intentions does, however, improve considerably for students who are sexually active; (3) We find improvement in motivations relating to birth control, perceptions of sexual risk, and to a lesser extent abstinence motivations; (4) We find statistically insignificant but counter-intuitive findings when comparing the effectiveness of an abstinence-only with an abstinence-plus curriculum; (5) We find more potent impacts among females, the sexually active, and individuals with low self-esteem; (6) We find evidence that contraception-related impacts are sustained up to twelve months.
  • King, C., Church, A., James, W., Okoth, R., Matthews, K. 2020. "Birth Weight Outcomes among Non-Hispanic Black Participants in a Home Visiting Program in the Rural South."  In: Jivetti, B., Hoque, M. (eds), Population Change and Public Policy. Applied Demography Series, vol 11. Springer.
    • Perinatal home visiting programs, in which healthcare professionals or social workers offer medical and social support to expectant mothers, have shown promising evidence for improving birth weight outcomes but have been understudied about rural or non-Hispanic black populations. This brief reports preliminary observations from one program situated among primarily non-Hispanic black women in a heavily rural area, which we demonstrate to be not only the most at-risk pregnancies but also some of the most overlooked in the literature. Using data from a home visiting program and aggregates from one county in the rural Mississippi Delta, we compare the incidence of low (LBW) and very low (VLBW) weight births of non-Hispanic black participants (n=109) to the rates among births to black non-participant women in the county (n=281) in 2015. Despite extreme poverty, higher rates of teen pregnancy, and lower rates of marriage than comparison groups, participation was associated with VLBW rates significantly lower than those of county non-participants in one-sample binomial and Fisher's exact tests, and a 26% lower rate of LBW that was not a significant difference in tests of association. The association between participation and lower LBW and VLBW incidence reinforces evidence that home visiting is an effective approach to ameliorating health disparities is highly isolated, cash-strapped regions.
  • Taylor, C., Bennett, J., King, C., Matthews, K., and James, W. 2019. "Lasting Promise: Long-Term Effects of a Transition-to-Kindergarten Program." Perspectives on Early Childhood Psychology and Education 4(2): 117-146.
    • This study examines whether a transition-to kindergarten program improves literacy test scores and whether such improvements last over 4 years. Transition-to-kindergarten programming is the supplemental effort, inside or outside the school, to prepare schools, children, and their families for kindergarten entry. Studies of the effectiveness of the programming have typically used behavior and literacy as outcomes, but, to our knowledge, no contemporary studies have measured outcomes beyond the fall of 1st grade, and none have disaggregated their findings to test results for African- American children in a rural setting (or all children in the setting of a rural, predominantly African-American school). Here, we follow participants and non-participants in an evidence-based transition-to-kindergarten program from K-entry to fall of 4th grade to test whether children who participated in the program entered Kindergarten, entered each subsequent grade, or had a growth pattern that demonstrated a statistical advantage over nonparticipants. We discuss our findings and their implications further.
  • James, W., Matthews, K., Albrecht, P., & Church, A. 2017. "Improving the Health of Rural America's Chronically Ill: A Case Study of a PCMH Clinic in Mississippi." Population Health Management, 21(1): 83.
    • Americans living in rural communities experience high rates of chronic disease while lacking access to adequate general and specialized medical care. Our research exhibits how a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) can aid those living in areas where there is a shortage in primary care health professionals. Studying patients with type II diabetes from a poor, unhealthy, rural Mississippi community, we used electronic health records to analyze longitudinal patterns in patient health from PCMH and traditional primary care clinics. A PCMH approach resulted in improved disease maintenance compared to traditional primary care clinics. PCMH patients diagnosed with type II diabetes fell from 87% to 70% over a five-year period. Chronically ill PCMH patients adopted a continuity of care, adhering at a rate of 88% at their follow-up visits (compared to 23% for non-PCMH patients). Improvement efforts like PCMH clinics could serve as a model to decrease the national mortality disparity plaguing other poor, rural areas.
  • James, W., Matthews, K., Albrecht, P., Fox, S., & Church, A. 2017. "Evidence of a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) Improving the Health of Chronically Ill Patients in the Mississippi Delta." Journal of Preventative Medicine and Care, 1(4).
    • Using proprietary data of patient records from four medical clinics in the Mississippi Delta, this research utilizes a natural experiment design to explore if the patient centered medical home (PCMH) has a positive effect on chronic disease maintenance for low SES, majority African-American patients in a rural and medically underserved region. The patients are divided into two cohorts, those attending PCMH clinics (level 2) and those attending non-PCMH clinics. Each cohort is comprised of similar demographic, socioeconomic, and health (large proportion of diabetics) characteristics. HbA1c scores of the cohorts are compared at two time periods, baseline and six-month follow-up. PCMH patients report more uncontrolled diabetes at baseline but the trend reverses at follow-up, providing evidence that the PCMH model of primary care produces positive health outcomes for patients with diabetes in the sample area.