2017 Request for Proposals

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth’s central mission is to deepen our understanding of whether and how inequality affects economic growth and stability. Our academic grants program is building a portfolio of cutting-edge research investigating the various channels through which economic inequality may (or may not) impact economic growth and stability, both directly and indirectly. We consider proposals on the consequences of economic inequality across wages, benefits, incomes, wealth, and job quality as well as group dimensions of inequality including gender, race, and ethnicity. We also consider proposals on the causes of inequality to the extent that understanding these causal pathways will help academics and policymakers identify and understand key channels through which economic inequality may affect growth and stability.

Equitable Growth supports inquiry utilizing many different kinds of evidence, relying on a variety of methodological approaches and cutting across academic disciplines, including economics, political science, sociology, history, social psychology, and others. We are especially interested in projects using administrative data, and other new or innovative data sources.

We are currently requesting proposals in these four areas:

Macroeconomics

How, if at all, does economic inequality have an impact on macroeconomic growth and stability, and how does the macroeconomy affect inequality? We are interested in whether a more equal distribution of income across households would lead to faster or more stable economic growth, and in the relationship between the health of individual household balance sheets and the health of the economy as a whole.

Here are some questions of interest. How does the composition and distribution of economic resources affect consumption and savings decisions by individuals and families? To what extent is inequality contributing to the relatively poor performance of the labor market in recent years, and to what extent do trends in the labor market explain rising inequality? In particular, what role do demand-side factors play in explaining the recent drop in the labor force participation rate? What are the effects of fiscal and monetary policy on economic inequality? Is there a trade-off between redistribution and productivity? How does the increasing economic importance of the financial sector affect the business cycle in the short term and the distribution of income and wealth in the long term? How has the shift to a service economy influenced investment demand and productivity growth, as well as income distribution? What role do monopoly and monopoly-like rents play in national income, how have these rents changed, and what are the consequences of these shifts on inequality and macroeconomic performance? What are the effects of fiscal and monetary policy on economic inequality?

Human Capital and the Labor Market

How, if at all, does economic inequality affect the development of human capital, and to what extent do aggregate trends in human capital explain the dynamics of inequality? Do different levels or kinds of inequality impact the potential for talent to emerge across the income, earnings, or wealth distributions, and, if so, how?

We are interested in proposals that investigate the myriad mechanisms through which economic inequality might work to alter the development of human potential across the generational arc, including children, young workers, prime-age workers, and older Americans as well as the policy mechanisms through which better human capital development will alter economic inequality. Examples of specific human capital-related channels include cognitive and non-cognitive skills, educational attainment, and family formation and stability. We also are interested in research that investigates the smooth functioning of the labor market and individuals’ ascent up the job ladder.

Innovation

How, if at all, does economic inequality impact the quantity and quality of innovation? Do technological innovations or any related re-organization of work, in turn, have an impact on inequality? Does economic inequality influence the kind of innovation that takes place, and who benefits from that innovation? What is the relationship between economic inequality and individuals’ appetites for risk? How does economic inequality affect the quantity and quality of future innovators’ access to credit? Has economic inequality harmed or helped innovators’ returns on investment, and, if so, how? How do mechanisms to incentivize research and development affect the income and wealth distribution as well as productivity? Does economic inequality translate into social inequalities that help or hinder the effective dispersion of innovative ideas and products?

We are especially interested in proposals that investigate whether and how inequality affects the development of the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs. We also are interested in research on new forms of workplace organization, including the “gig” or “sharing economy.”

Institutions

On a fundamental level, all three prior channels—macroeconomics, human capital and the labor market, and innovation—are mediated by a wide range of institutions, all of which are shaped by policy choices. How, if at all, do levels and trends in economic inequality impact the quality of social, economic, and political institutions contributing to economic well-being and economic growth? How, if at all, do levels and trends in economic inequality affect corporate governance practices, and how do these institutional practices translate into economic outcomes for the economy as a whole? How have changes in market structure influenced the distribution of economic resources and power, and what impact have these changes had on economic growth?
 
Topics of particular interest include rent-seeking, anti-competitive behavior, cartelization, regulation, and anti-trust policy. We are especially interested in projects exploring the implications of shifts in market structure and the “fissured workplace,” including the role of inter- versus intra-firm inequalities in shaping income and earnings inequality. Our interest in labor market institutions also includes labor standards, social insurance, corporate human resource policies, and unions, and how these existing institutions succeed or fail in the face of new forms of workplace organization.

Who and what we fund

The four topic areas above represent the primary research interests to Equitable Growth at present. We encourage scholars to interpret these areas broadly. In general, we are willing to consider any exceptional proposal on issues related to inequality and economic growth. For examples of earlier funding in all four areas, please read our 2014, 2015, and 2016 grantees’ project descriptions.

Our grant program will support a number of lines of inquiry that examine many different types of evidence and cut across academic fields. We encourage researchers to consider the effects of public policies on both economic growth and inequality and, conversely, to consider the potential policy relevance of new research. We are particularly interested in funding data collection and projects that draw on interdisciplinary research.

If you have questions about your project or its relevance, please email grants@equitablegrowth.org.

Eligibility

Solicitations are open to researchers affiliated with U.S. universities. Equitable Growth has two funding streams, Academic and Doctoral/Post-Doctoral. Academic grants are open to researchers affiliated with a U.S. university. Doctoral/Post-Doctoral grants are open to graduate students currently enrolled in a doctoral program at a U.S. university, and to recent Ph.D. graduates currently in a post-doctoral position at a U.S. university. If you are currently a graduate student or in a post-doctoral position, you may choose to apply for either an Academic or Doctoral/Post-Doctoral grant, depending on the pool in which you’d like to compete.

Equitable Growth is willing to fund a wide range of activities, including researcher salary and benefits, research assistance, data purchase, and costs associated with conducting experiments or participating in professional conferences. Our grants cannot cover indirect overhead.

How to apply

Academic grants

To apply for an Academic grant, submit a letter of inquiry using the online submission form. Letters of inquiry are short descriptions of a research project. They should be approximately two pages (about 1,250 words) in length. Letters of inquiry that are more than 2,000 words will not be considered. While we do not want to be overly prescriptive, the word limit is designed to encourage concision and clarity.

Letters of inquiry must include the problem addressed by the research, the methodological approach, and a timeline for completion. We encourage applicants to briefly explain how the research contributes to existing literature and/or whether the project will result in a new data source. Policy implications are also of considerable interest.

If tables, graphs, or other images are helpful in explaining your project then they can be included. While they will not count against the word limit, we encourage you to limit the use of images to one or two.

Academic submissions are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on January 30, 2017. All applicants will be notified of decisions in March, 2017.

A preliminary budget is also required and should be submitted as a brief narrative (approximately 50 to 150 words, though a strict limit is not enforced). At this stage we are interested in the total expected cost of the project and a general breakdown of those costs (such as salary, research assistance, costs associated with data collection, travel or conference fees). If applicable, please include a brief description of other secured or anticipated funding sources for the proposed work. A more detailed project budget will be required for applicants who are invited to submit a full proposal.

If invited, full proposals will be due by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 20, 2017. Full proposals will be reviewed by our research and policy staff, external peer reviewers, and members of our Steering Committee.

Funding decisions will be announced in June. We anticipate that funds will be distributed in early Fall 2016, though the timing of disbursement depends in part on the particulars of the project and the researcher’s home institution.

Doctoral/Post-Doctoral grants

To apply for a Doctoral/Post-Doctoral grant, complete the online submission form. Doctoral/Post-Doctoral applicants do not need to submit a letter of inquiry. Professional references are also not required, though we do request a curriculum vitae.

Doctoral/Post-Doctoral proposals should be approximately six single-spaced pages with standard font and margins (not including bibliography). Proposals should address the following: the problem or question your research seeks to address and how it relates to Equitable Growth’s mission, anticipated contribution to existing scholarship, detailed methodological approach, potential policy implications, and timeline for completion.

Doctoral submissions are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on March 10, 2017. Equitable Growth research will review all proposals, and the most promising proposals will also be sent out for external review and reviewed by policy staff.

A preliminary budget is also required and should be submitted as a narrative. If direct costs such as data purchase or research assistance are anticipated, they should be listed. If funding will be used for support only, simply state that.

Funding decisions will be announced in June. We anticipate that funds will be distributed by the start of the 2017-18 academic year, though the timing of disbursement depends in part on the particulars of the project and whether it will be administered as an individual or institutional grant. The majority of Doctoral/Post-Doctoral grants are administered as individual grants and are awarded directly to the individual. Institutional grants are typically awarded when the grantee is not a U.S. person or when funding will be used to purchase data or hire research assistance. A decision on funding type is not needed until after awards are announced, at which point we encourage grantees to consult with their research advisor, university administrative staff, as well as Equitable Growth grants staff.

Funding range

Academic Grants will normally be in the range of $25,000 to $100,000 over 12 to 30 months. We will also consider proposals for larger grants for exceptional projects. Doctoral/Post-Doctoral grants are typically funded at the $15,000 level over 12 months.

Equitable Growth is willing to fund a wide range of activities, including researcher salary and benefits, research assistance, data purchase, and costs associated with conducting experiments or related to travel and conferences. Our grants cannot cover indirect overhead.

For more information about the level of funding we provide, please see the descriptions of our 2014, 2015, and 2016 grants.

Submit your proposal

To submit your proposal, please complete the online submission form. Clicking on the link will open a new window. Please note that curriculum vitae, letters of inquiry, and proposals are submitted via file upload. If you have co-principal investigators on the project, you will need their basic contact information.

Equitable Growth sometimes partners with other foundations to support projects jointly, or to share proposals that are not a fit for our grant program but which may be of interest to other funders. If you would prefer that we not share your proposal with other funders, please email grants@equitablegrowth.org

If you have questions about the application process or are having trouble submitting your proposal, please email grants@equitablegrowth.org or call Korin Davis at (202) 545-3343.