Grant Category

Human Capital and Wellbeing

How does economic inequality affect the development of human capital, and to what extent do aggregate trends in human capital explain inequality dynamics?

The acquisition and deployment of human capital in the market drives advances in productivity. The extent to which someone is rich or poor, experiences family instability, faces discrimination, or grows up in an opportunity-rich or opportunity-poor neighborhood affects future economic outcomes and can subvert the processes that lead to productivity gains, which drive long-term growth.

How does economic inequality affect the development of human capital, and to what extent do aggregate trends in human capital explain inequality dynamics? To what extent can social programs counteract these underlying dynamics? We are interested in proposals that investigate the mechanisms through which economic inequality might work to alter the development of human potential across the generational arc, as well as the policy mechanisms through which inequality’s potential impacts on human capital development and deployment may be mitigated.

  • Economic opportunity and intergenerational mobility
  • Economic instability
  • Family stability
  • Neighborhood characteristics

Explore the Grants We've Awarded

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The Self-Taught Economy: Open Access and Inclusion in the Tech Industry

Grant Year: 2022

Grant Amount: $15,000

Grant Type: doctoral

This project asks, “Can access grant inclusion?” The author will explore this question in the context of open-access coding platforms that allow people to be self-taught coders. The technology sector is notoriously exclusionary, and computer science degrees are difficult to obtain because of the high cost of college, among other factors. Could open-access training platforms create a path for individuals from underrepresented communities of color to take advantage of the explosive job growth in the technology sector? This project will address these questions by combining survey data with in-depth interviews and observations of those who have participated in a specific learn-to-code platform. Preliminary findings indicate that the open-access platform does not aid those who have been excluded from high-quality jobs in the tech industry. The project seeks to understand why open-access training platforms are not leading to success. What barriers do female applicants or applicants of color face in job-seeking? This research will be especially informative for efforts to address job quality and wage stagnation by advocating for worker training. If completing worker training does not lead to the desired outcomes, then policymakers need to understand those programs as only part of the solution and identify necessary complements.

Racial disparities in heat exposure

Grant Year: 2022

Grant Amount: $15,000

Grant Type: doctoral

This project ties together neighborhood segregation, migration patterns, and local spending and policies to explore how “structural racism is built into physical infrastructure in cities.” The author will use granular satellite images to measure temperature in Black and White urban neighborhoods. The project will look at the degree to which neighborhoods are segregated and the level of surface imperviousness in each of those neighborhoods. The author also will map Great Migration patterns, White flight, and local government spending patterns. The research uses data from the University of Virginia’s Environmental Inequality Lab and builds on research on Northern cities’ responses to the Great Migration. Preliminary results show that historical Black migrant inflows increased the surface temperature of neighborhoods where Black households live, relative to the neighborhoods where White households live, as well as the Black-White gap in neighborhood imperviousness.

Caregiving Arrangements for Older Adults: The Roles of Family Characteristics and Public Benefits

Grant Year: 2022

Grant Amount: $15,000

Grant Type: doctoral

Individuals and their families use a variety of caregiving arrangements, but there is little research on who is likely to use which kind of arrangement. Furthermore, existing scholarship mainly focuses on the characteristics of the care recipient, without considering how family characteristics influence choices for caregiving arrangements. This mixed-methods study will explore how family characteristics and social infrastructure programs shape caregiving arrangements for older adults in the United States. The first two papers quantify and study the relationship between family characteristics and the size and scope of several social infrastructure and caregiving arrangements. The third paper will use semi-structured interviews with families who have eldercare responsibilities, focusing on Black females in the Chicago area, to shed light on their decision-making processes. Through these interviews, the author will explore how access to public programs affects their decisions, how they were selected as caregivers, what their preferences and future expectations are, and how employment plays into their decisions. The sample will include recipients (either care recipients or caretakers) of Social Security Insurance, Social Security Disability Insurance, Old Age and Survivors Insurance, Paid Family Leave, and Home & Community Based Services waivers from Medicaid.

HBCU Enrollment and Longer-Term Outcomes

Grant Year: 2022

Grant Amount: $67,273

Grant Type: academic

This proposal will utilize a large and comprehensive dataset to evaluate whether historically Black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, can narrow or close racial gaps on numerous measures of economic well-being, not just typical measures such as income. The dataset links College Board SAT data with credit bureau data and National Student Clearinghouse data. It includes students who took the SATs between 2004 and 2010, tracking them from high school through college, and will allow the authors to look at financial outcomes at age 30. Using these data, the authors will compare the longer-term outcomes for Black students who attend these schools versus similar students who applied to but did not attend one. The authors will explore several outcomes, including those where racial disparities exist, such as college-related debt, other forms of debt, and whether the individual has a mortgage (a proxy for homeownership). The credit data also give a more complete picture of income than earnings since it covers all types of income. Existing research shows how important social supports and social capital are to economic mobility. This project will shed light on the distinctive social and psychological value-added features of historically Black colleges and universities.

Low-Income Borrowers and Payday Lenders: A Qualitative Study

Grant Year: 2022

Grant Amount: $80,000

Grant Type: academic

This project explores how low-income people with immediate needs for cash make borrowing decisions in states where payday lending is heavily restricted versus states where it is not. It takes a qualitative approach to exploring the experiential processes that unfold across varying state policy contexts. As the author notes, there is a burgeoning line of scholarship on payday loans and states’ attempts to restrict them, but with mixed evidence on the effects on low-income borrowers. On one hand, these loans come with predatory lending rates that are often compounded for borrowers who are unable to pay back the loan in the original period and therefore roll it over, incurring more fees and often resulting in the borrower owing many times over what they originally received. On the other hand, credit is highly constrained for low-income individuals, with payday loans filling the gap. Yet there remains neither a consensus on the utility of such loans for low-income borrowers nor an understanding of how low-income individuals make decisions about borrowing. This gap limits policymakers from addressing the dual needs of credit access for low-income borrowers and the need to reduce the deleterious effects of payday lending, a gap this research will shed light on.

Municipal Neighborhood Effects: Estimating the Independent Association between Childhood Jurisdiction and Life Outcomes

Grant Year: 2022

Grant Amount: $33,348

Grant Type: academic

This project examines associations between municipality of residence during childhood and upward mobility. Notably, the project creates a new dataset by identifying municipalities across the United States and documenting and categorizing municipal policies for comparison. Research on municipalities is hampered because a single repository or dataset containing all municipalities and their characteristics and policies does not exist. In addition to the potential data contribution, from a policy solution standpoint, understanding municipal policy is critically important. It is neither practical nor reasonable to propose solutions for mobility that operate just at the neighborhood or commuting-zone level, outside of the context of local governance. City and county governments need to know what they can reasonably do within their jurisdictions in order to increase mobility. While the proposed study, like many others in this space, does not attempt to identify causality, the descriptive work has the potential to be telling since it could provide municipalities with evidence of how they are succeeding or failing at supporting upward mobility for their residents.

Experts

Staff

Kate Bahn

Equitable Growth

Director of Labor Market Policy and Chief Economist

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Grantee

Katherine Michelmore

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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Grantee

Darrick Hamilton

The New School

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Grantee

Ammar Farooq

Amazon

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Grantee

Joan Williams

University of California, Hastings College of Law

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Our funding interests are organized around the following four drivers of economic growth: the macroeconomy, human capital and the labor market, innovation, and institutions.

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