Professor MaCurdy's research falls broadly in the area of human resources, with its main focus on the impacts of low-income support programs, income transfers, and tax systems on human development and economic activity. His studies uncover consequential empirical findings relevant for the design of public assistance policies, including such programs as welfare, food stamps, child support, foster care, low-skilled training, earned income tax credit, minimum wages, unemployment compensation, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other government aid for health care. MaCurdy's research addresses the determinants of participation, the characteristics and behavioral patterns of beneficiaries, influences on work disincentives, and how policies contribute to the well-being of program recipients.
Among his current public service activities, MaCurdy serves as a member of standing committees advising the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Census, the Congressional Budget Office, the Institute for Research on Poverty, and many state and local governmental agencies in California. He was the Director of the American Economic Association Summer Minority Program during 1991-1995. He has served in an editorial capacity for several professional journals (Econometrica, Labour Economics, Journal of Econometrics, Review of Economics and Statistics) and is currently the Executive Editor of the California Policy Review.