Equitable Growth’s academic research and policy priorities shine through at Southern Economic Conference 2021


The Southern Economic Association recently held its 91st Annual Meeting, gathering a diverse group of scholars from U.S. and international universities to discuss their research in theory and applied economics. The hybrid in-person/virtual event, which took place over 3 days in late November, featured dozens of sessions on a range of topics, from policing and public policy to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and from market power and antitrust to a number of other topics specifically related to economic inequality and growth.

Equitable Growth staff organized, chaired, and participated in several different panel sessions at SEA’s annual meeting this year, highlighting a number of our research priorities and policy areas of interest, as well as our important role as a grantmaking institution.

On the first day of the event, Kate Bahn, our director of labor market policy and interim chief economist, organized a virtual panel on discrimination in the labor market. Among the highlights:

  • Multiple Equitable Growth grantees presented their research to attendees. Cornell University’s Jamein Cunningham discussed Equitable Growth-funded research on civil rights enforcement and the racial wage gap. The University of Memphis’ Jose Joaquín Lopez highlighted the effects of the Civil Rights Acts of 1991 on jury trials for employment discrimination cases. And Bobby Chung of St. Bonaventure University spoke of his joint work with Equitable Growth grantee Peter Blair of the Harvard Graduate School of Education on occupational licensing and statistical discrimination.
  • The panel also featured forthcoming work by Anastasia Wilson, assistant professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and Luke Petach, assistant professor at Belmont University, on “guard labor” in the U.S. economy.

Equitable Growth also organized and co-hosted an in-person panel session with the Russel Sage Foundation, titled “Elements of Successful Grant Proposals for Research on Inequality.” The session focused on providing insights into what researchers should know before submitting a grant proposal, how to assess whether their research is the right fit for a funder’s priorities, elements of a winning grant application, and the resources available to support them in the grant-seeking process. Among the highlights:

  • Christian Edlagan, Equitable Growth’s senior manager of academic engagement, and Stephen Glauser, program officer at the Russell Sage Foundation, opened with brief remarks on their organizations’ funding priorities, including the Equitable Growth 2022 Request for Proposals.
  • Ann Huff Stevens, dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, and Andria Smythe, assistant professor of economics at Howard University, both spoke about their own experiences as grantees and external reviewers to shed light on the process of applying for research funding.
  • The speakers also touched upon how best to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and methodological diversity, increase the number of successful applicants from members of underrepresented groups, and the unique challenges posed by the ongoing pandemic and racial reckoning that have disproportionately impacted communities of color in the United States.

Later that day, Corey Husak, a tax and policy advisor at the U.S. Senate (and formerly of Equitable Growth), chaired a session on labor and geographic mobility. Among the highlights:

  • Husak and Carmen Sanchez Cumming, senior research assistant at Equitable Growth, presented their research, co-authored with Yi Geng and Daniel Muhammad at the DC Office of the Chief Financial Officer, on self-employment and the minimum wage.
  • In the same session, Arvind Sharma, doctoral candidate at Northwestern University, presented his research on the effect of occupational licensing on interstate migration, Protika Bhattacharjee at the University of New Hampshire discussed her research on the implications of air quality on migration decisions, and Ashley Orr at Carnegie Mellon University presented her paper, “Examining Family Mobility Considering Human Capital Investments in Children.”

In addition, several Equitable Growth grantees and other network members participated or were featured in at least 18 different sessions over the course of the conference. A few highlights included:

  • The conference keynote address was given by William A. “Sandy” Darity Jr., the Samuel DuBois Cook professor of public policy, African and African American studies, and economics and the director of the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity at Duke University, and a member of Equitable Growth’s Research Advisory Board. Darity argued for a new economics anchored in understanding inequality and uncertainty of choice and discussed the economic history of the racial wealth divide and the value of stratification economics.
  • Lisa Cook, associate professor at Michigan State University and an Equitable Steering Committee member, organized and chaired a session on “Advances in Innovation Research,” where she also presented Equitable Growth-funded research, “Pink and Black,” on the implications of U.S. gender and racial disparities in income and wealth at each stage of the innovation process.
  • Darrick Hamilton, Henry Cohen professor of economics and urban policy at The New School for Social Research and an Equitable Growth grantee, organized a presidential panel on race, stratification, and economic rights that featured Naomi Zewde, assistant professor at the City University of New York, who discussed historic structural racism in housing and urban development policy design, and Dania V. Francis, assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, who presented on the need to broaden who qualifies as part of the economics profession. The panel also featured Colorado State University’s Guy Numa and the New School’s Grieve Chelwa, both of whom discussed the importance of the political and historical influence of ideological biases in economic analyses.
  • Robynn Cox, assistant professor at the University of Southern California, presented on the impacts of employee ownership—particularly Employee Stock Ownership Plans, or ESOPs—on labor market outcomes of the formerly incarcerated during a panel on “Labor Market Disparities.” She also presented different research, co-authored with Sarah Andrea Jacobson at Williams College, on the effects of race on perceptions of criminality and employment in a virtual panel on the economics of race, law, and crime.
  • During the session titled “Economics of Gender and Economics of the Household,” Nancy Folbre, an Equitable Growth grantee and professor emerita of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, highlighted features of the Build Back Better Act recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and now under debate in the U.S. Senate, including the Child Tax Credit, paid family leave, and subsidized child care, as contributing to the household bargaining power of women, who disproportionately take on care work.
  • On a panel titled “Beyond a Deficit Perspective: Economic Analysis of Racial Disparities,” Fenaba Addo, an associate professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an Equitable Growth grantee, presented on racial disparities in student debt and the millennial racial wealth divide. Kyle K. Moore, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute and a former Dissertation Scholar at Equitable Growth, also presented on stratification economics and racial disparities in health. 
  • Andria Smythe presented Equitable Growth-funded research on the long-run effects of recessions on Black and Hispanic young adults’ employment and income for a panel titled “Race and Human Capital Investment.”
  • During a panel on “Poverty in the U.S.: The Safety Net, Laws, and Shocks,” Derek Wu, a Ph.D. candidate in public policy at the University of Chicago and an Equitable Growth grantee, presented Equitable Growth-funded research on the impacts of welfare cuts on well-being during the Great Recession.

Throughout the event, Equitable Growth’s commitment to supporting new research on inequality and growth, and increasing diversity in the economics profession—including by supporting scholars in various phases of their careers and from an array of backgrounds—shone through. For more information on how Equitable Growth seeds research from a range of disciplines and to learn about current funding opportunities, visit our 2022 Request for Proposals page.



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