The Washington Center for Equitable Growth Announces Further
Support for Academic Research on Inequality and Growth

(Washington, DC)—The Washington Center for Equitable Growth is pleased to announce its 2016 class of grantees. Equitable Growth’s third year of grants helps build upon a growing and diverse portfolio of cutting-edge scholarly research that investigates the channels through which economic inequality affects economic growth and stability. As with awards granted in past years, we are especially committed to supporting research that utilizes new and novel data sources.

Equitable Growth will award 19 grants in its 2016 round of grantmaking. Awards total $759,135, with an additional $52,500 in co-funding from the Russell Sage Foundation. Combined with our funding in the 2014 and 2015 grant cycles, Equitable Growth has awarded a total of $2,084,080 in grants with an additional $170,730 in co-funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation.

“With every new grant cycle, I’m invigorated by the caliber and rigor of the research questions that grantees put forward,” says Equitable Growth’s executive director and chief economist Heather Boushey. “What’s even more exciting is that the opportunity to support such research means that the questions will not go unanswered. In the years that follow, this body of research will yield answers, and sometimes more importantly, further questions, on the structural changes happening in the U.S. economy and the channels through which those changes will affect economic growth and stability.”

On an annual basis, Equitable Growth awards grants within the four categories identified in our Request for Proposals: macroeconomics; human capital and the labor market; innovation; and governance and institutions. Each category represents a primary channel through which to explore the relationship between economic inequality and economic growth and stability.

Academic grants are open to researchers affiliated with a U.S. university, and doctoral grants are open to graduate students currently enrolled in a U.S. doctoral program. You can find the full text of the Request for Proposals on the Equitable Growth website.

Expanded descriptions of the 2016 grants and biographies on each grantee can be found here.

“Equitable Growth’s grantees represent some of the most exciting work on economic growth and inequality going on today,” says Equitable Growth’s senior director for policy Elisabeth Jacobs. “Several grantees are explicitly examining the intersection of macroeconomics and inequality, which is an area ripe for exploration. Taken together, all these research questions knit together something that is more than the sum of their parts, especially when we consider the past cohorts of grantees.”

Below are brief descriptions of each funded project.

Macroeconomics

Three academic grants will support research on how economic inequality affects macroeconomic growth and stability:

  • Jess Benhabib, Alberto Bisin, and Mi Luo of New York University will assess how the distribution of earned income, the rate of return for various assets, and the nature of bequests determine wealth inequality.
  • Gauti Eggertsson and Neil Mehrotra of Brown University will build a model to demonstrate how higher income inequality has reduced the natural rate of interest through increased overall saving.
  • Adriana Kugler and Ammar Farooq of Georgetown University will examine whether extensions of unemployment insurance benefits improve job-match quality, and the role that unemployment insurance plays in improving worker outcomes.

Three doctoral grants will support further research on the macroeconomy:

  • Alexander Bartik of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will explore the distributional implications of fracking and mass transit expansions using longitudinal U.S. Census Bureau microdata.
  • John Coglianese of Harvard University will construct a comprehensive measure of underemployment and integrate it into commonly-used economic models to showcase the effects of underemployment on the functioning of the labor market.
  • Andrew Elrod of the University of California-Santa Barbara will examine how the reorganization of the U.S. banking sector after World War II altered the relationship between profitable investment and macroeconomic stability.

Human Capital and the Labor Market

Two academic grants will support research on how economic inequality affects the development of human capital, and to what extent aggregate trends in human capital explain inequality dynamics:

  • Christopher Jencks and Beth Truesdale of Harvard University will investigate the relationship between inequality and health outcomes, which will further research on the relationship between income and life expectancy.
  • Marta Murray-Close and Joya Misra of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst will construct estimates of how parenthood contributes to the gender wage gap and, in turn, how supporting working parents is key to promoting gender equity.

Three doctoral grants will support further research on human capital:

  • Sydnee Caldwell of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will draw on employer-employee data to document access to high-wage firms and movements between high- and low-wage firms over the span of a worker’s career.
  • Blythe George of Harvard University will focus on the lack of employment options and life outcomes on the Yurok and Hoopa Valley Native American tribal reservations.
  • Mariana Zerpa of the University of Arizona will explore the impact of large-scale, publicly-funded preschool education programs on health and developmental outcomes for children ages 4 to 12.

Innovation

Two academic grants will support research on how economic inequality affects the quantity and quality of innovation, and whether technology innovations, in turn, impact inequality:

  • Kyle Herkenhoff of the University of Minnesota and Gordon Phillips of Dartmouth College will study access to credit, via the removal of bankruptcy flags, on key outcomes, including business formation rates, earnings, and profitability.
  • Heidi Williams of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Patrick Kline of the University of California-Berkeley, Neviana Petkova of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Owen Zidar of the University of Chicago will create a new dataset that links patent applications to business tax records to estimate the relative effects of patent-generated monopoly rents on firm returns and worker wages.

Two doctoral grants will support further research on innovation:

  • Xavier Jaravel of Harvard University will examine whether economic inequality affects the type of innovation that takes place and who benefits from that innovation.
  • Hannah Rubinton of Princeton University will analyze how trends in firm start-up rates affect consumer welfare and productivity growth.

Governance and Institutions 

Three academic grants will support research on how levels and trends in economic inequality affect the quality of social and political institutions that contribute to economic well-being and economic growth:

  • Manasi Deshpande of the University of Chicago, Tal Gross of Columbia University, and Jialan Wang of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will quantify how public assistance affects households’ financial well-being through increasing access to credit.
  • Jane Waldfogel and Ann Bartel of Columbia University, Maya Rossin-Slater of the University of California-Santa Barbara, and Christopher Ruhm of the University of Virginia will investigate inequality in employer-provided paid parental leave in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
  • Joan Williams of the University of California-Hastings College of the Law, Susan Lambert of the University of Chicago, and Saravanan Kesavan of the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flager Business School will continue research on whether shifting hourly workers to more stable schedules results in cost savings and increases business productivity.

One doctoral grant will support further research on governance and institutions:

  • Ellora Derenoncourt of Harvard University will use online lab experiments and employee-employer matched data to look at labor market decisions, testing for individual social preferences over payoff distributions.

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The Washington Center for Equitable Growth is a research and grantmaking organization founded to accelerate cutting-edge analysis into whether and how structural changes in the U.S. economy, particularly related to economic inequality, affect growth. For more information, see www.equitablegrowth.org or follow us on Twitter @equitablegrowth.