Funding priorities

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.

Our funding focuses on 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. We will consider applications from J.D. candidates although the vast majority of our Doctoral/Post-Doctoral grants will go to Ph.D. students in the social sciences. 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

Equitable Growth has one funding cycle per year. We do not accept unsolicited proposals. Our 2018 Request for Proposals will be announced in the fall. Guidelines for submission and relevant deadlines will be posted then for both our Academic and Doctoral/Post-Doctoral funding streams. Letters of inquiry for Academic submissions are typically due in late January. Proposals for Doctoral/Post-Doctoral submissions are typically due in March. Funding decisions are announced in the summer.

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.