Robert Rector

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Robert Rector
Robert Rector publicity shot.jpg
Occupationconservative research fellow

Robert E. Rector is a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation focused on poverty issues. Rector has written over 300 reports, articles, and commentaries on public policy and has testified before Congress more than 40 times. His writings include the book America's Failed $5.4 Trillion War on Poverty.


Rector received an undergraduate degree from The College of William & Mary and a masters in political science from Johns Hopkins University.[1]

Rector has worked for The Heritage Foundation since 1984.[2] He is the editor of the 1987 book, Steering the Elephant: How Washington Works, and the co-author of the 1995 book, America's Failed $5.4 Trillion War on Poverty.[3]

Rector has been a management analyst for the United States Office of Personnel Management and a legislative assistant in the Virginia House of Delegates.[3] From 2001 to 2002, he served as a commissioner of the Millennial Housing Commission.[4]

Welfare reform[edit]

Rector works on conservative poverty and welfare reform policy. He has testified before Congress and written extensively on the subject.[5][3]

Rector played a major role in the design and crafting of the welfare reform legislation enacted in 1996,[3][6] which marked a significant shift in American welfare policy.[7] Early in the reform process, the Wall Street Journal called Rector the “leading guru” behind the Republican position on welfare, stating, “to understand what Republicans are trying to do about welfare, don’t look to Newt Gingrich. Watch Robert Rector.”[8]

Rector promoted work and marriage as primary means to reduce material poverty and improve the well-being of the poor.[9] His writing frequently expresses deep concern over the decline of marriage and rise of non-marital child bearing in low income communities and argues that dependence on welfare has harmed American society by discouraging marriage. He insists that welfare reform should seek to promote married two parent families.[10]

Rector has written frequently on the subjects of welfare and poverty, including the 1992 The Wall Street Journal article "America's Poverty Myth", which asserted that the US Census inaccurately measures poverty,[11] and his 1995 book with William Lauber, America's Failed $5.4 Trillion War on Poverty, which criticized welfare laws in the US for allegedly rewarding breakdowns in family values.[12]

In 1995, The Wall Street Journal called Rector the "leading guru" behind the Republicans' position on welfare.[13] In 2006, editor Rich Lowry of the conservative National Review called Rector, "the intellectual godfather" of welfare reform.[14]

Immigration reform[edit]

Role in opposing the 2006 immigration reform proposals[edit]

Rector has been a researcher on immigration policy[15] and has testified before Congress on the subject.[16] In 2006, Rector published a report on the proposed Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act for The Heritage Foundation, stating that passage of the bill would lead to more than 100 million new legal immigrants within 20 years.[17]

Role in opposing the 2013 immigration reform proposals[edit]

With statistical assistance from Harvard Ph.D. and then Heritage Research Fellow Jason Richwine, Rector wrote a report on the fiscal cost of proposed amnesty legislation to the United States. The report was published by the Heritage Foundation on May 6, 2013.[18] Rector and Jim DeMint, a former U.S. senator and the newly installed Heritage Foundation president, introduced the report in an op-ed article in the Washington Post.[19]

The methods used in the report met with considerable criticism from a number of think tanks and immigration policy analysts across the political spectrum, including Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute,[20] Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development,[21] and many others.[22]

Later, widespread publicity of past research by study co-author Jason Richwine on race and intelligence as well as race and crime in the United States, as part of his Ph.D. dissertation at Harvard University under George Borjas, led to a greater backlash against the study. Richwine left Heritage as a result of the controversy.[23][24][25]

Abstinence education[edit]

Rector is a proponent of abstinence education. His advocacy prompted the inclusion of school-program funding for the teaching of abstinence in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.[26] Rector has published research papers for The Heritage Foundation that conclude a delay in the onset of sexual activity is linked to positive life outcomes.[27] He is quoted as an expert on abstinence education by numerous media outlets, including The New York Times.[28][29] In 1999, the Los Angeles Times called Rector the "architect of the abstinence-only movement."[26]


  1. ^ "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" (PDF). Hearing Before The Subcommittee on Immigration. United States House of Representatives. 19 June 2007. p. 11. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  2. ^ "Robert Rector". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 1 June 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d "Robert Rector". Welfare Reform Academy. University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  4. ^ "Commissioners". Millennial Housing Commission. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  5. ^ Debenport, Ellen (10 April 1995). "Money or morals for the poor?". St. Petersburg Times.
  6. ^ Allen-Mills, Tony (15 February 2009). "Obama warned over welfare spendathon". The Times. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  7. ^ Corley, Cheryl (30 March 2004). "Welfare Reform In America". NPR. Retrieved 7 June 2011.
  8. ^ Stout, Hilary (January 23, 1995). "Behind The Scenes". No. A1. The Wall Street Journal.
  9. ^ Rector, Robert (December 1, 1995). America's Failed $5.4 Trillion War on Poverty. The Heritage Foundation. p. 115. ISBN 0891950621.
  10. ^ Page, Clarence (13 August 2006). "Welfare reformed, poverty persists". Chicago Tribune.
  11. ^ Rector, Robert (3 September 1992). "America's Poverty Myth". The Wall Street Journal.
  12. ^ Reed, Lawrence W. (November 2000). "Incentives and Disincentives". The Freeman. Foundation for Economic Education. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  13. ^ Stout, Hilary. "Behind The Scenes". The Wall Street Journal.
  14. ^ Lowry, Rich (18 August 2006). "The Welfare-Reform Miracle". National Review Online. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  15. ^ Lockhead, Carolyn (20 June 2006). "Senate swayed by analyst's immigrant count". San Francisco Chronicle.
  16. ^ Rector, Robert (6 June 2007). "Equal Time: Amnesty for low-skill workers will add to poverty, dependence". Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  17. ^ Rector, Robert (15 May 2006). "Senate Immigration Bill Would Allow 100 Million New Legal Immigrants over the Next Twenty Years". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 6 June 2011.
  18. ^ Rector, Robert; Richwine, Jason (2013-05-06). "The Fiscal Cost of Unlawful Immigrants and Amnesty to the U.S. Taxpayer". Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  19. ^ DeMint, Jim; Rector, Robert (2013-05-06). "What amnesty for illegal immigrants will cost America". Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  20. ^ Nowrasteh, Alex (2013-05-07). "Heritage's Flawed Immigration Analysis". Cato Institute (blog). Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  21. ^ Clemens, Michael (2013-05-07). "The Magically Vanishing Slice of Pie". Center for Global Development (blog). Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  22. ^ Rubin, Jennifer (2013-05-06). "Conservative leaders slam Heritage for shoddy immmigration [sic] study". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  23. ^ Matthews, Dylan (2013-05-08). "Heritage study co-author opposed letting in immigrants with low IQs". Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  24. ^ Parker, Ashley; Preston, Julia (2013-05-09). "Paper on Immigrant I.Q. Dogs Critic of Overhaul". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  25. ^ Weigel, David (2013-05-10). "Jason Richwine Resigns from the Heritage Foundation". Slate. Retrieved 2013-05-21.
  26. ^ a b Smith, Lynn (10 August 199). "Chastity Makes A Comeback". Los Angeles Times.
  27. ^ Rector, Robert (30 March 2004). "Facts about Abstinence Education". The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
  28. ^ Rabin, Roni Caryn (11 May 2010). "New Spending for a Wider Range of Sex Education". New York Times.
  29. ^ Rector, Robert (14 February 2011). "Why abstinence education is under attack from the left". Chicago Sun Times.

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