About Us

J. “Michael” Collins founded PolicyLab in 2004. Collins studies consumer decision-making in the financial marketplace, including the role of public policy in influencing credit, savings, and investment choices. He is recognized nationally as an expert on policies and programs related to consumer finance and financial literacy. Collins has extensive experience leading evaluations and conducting applied research, and has contributed to the development of programs aimed at improving households’ financial security.

In addition to his work at PolicyLab, Collins serves as the faculty director of the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is an Associate Professor at the La Follette School of Public Affairs and the School of Human Ecology. He is a faculty affiliate of the UW-Extension, Cooperative Extension and the Institute for Research on Poverty. He is currently involved in studies of mortgage foreclosure and family well-being supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundation, financial coaching supported by the Annie E. Casey foundation, and emergency savings policies for the C.S. Mott Foundation. His academic research and presentations are available here.

Collins directed the Social Security Administration’s Financial Literacy Research Consortium site at Wisconsin (2009-2012). He brings a decade of applied experience to his research. In addition to founding PolicyLab, he co-founded MortgageKeeper Referral Services, an online database for mortgage servicers and counselors. He has also worked for NeighborWorks America (Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation) and the Millennial Housing Commission. He holds a PhD from Cornell University, a master’s degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and a BS from Miami University (OH).


PolicyLab forms partnerships with independent consultants or firms in order to provide the highest level of expertise to projects.

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