Equitable Growth Announces Second Annual Class of Grantees

More than $800,000 in new academic grants will add to growing body of research examining whether and how economic inequality affects economic growth.

The Washington Center for Equitable Growth is pleased to announce the new 2015 class of grantees. Equitable Growth’s academic grants program aims to build a portfolio of cutting-edge scholarly research that investigates the channels through which economic inequality may or may not impact economic growth and stability.

Equitable Growth will award a total of $784,000 through 24 grants in the 2015 grant cycle, with an additional $49,800 in co-funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that aims to foster economic independence by advancing educational achievement and entrepreneurial success. This builds upon the inaugural 2014 grant cycle, during which Equitable Growth awarded $541,000 in grants with an additional $68,000 in co-funding from the Russell Sage Foundation.

“We’re thrilled to support cutting-edge research that will investigate the structural changes happening in the U.S. economy,” says Equitable Growth’s Executive Director and Chief Economist Heather Boushey. “Through new and novel data sources and by using micro data to answer macroeconomic questions, an exciting array of rising scholars and established academics will do the hard work to answer the big questions related to whether and how economic inequality affects growth. I hope that those interested in policy-relevant research pay close attention to this talented slate of researchers and this area of scholarship in the years to come.”

Equitable Growth awarded grants within the four categories identified in our Request for Proposals: household balance sheets and macroeconomic stability, human capital development across the generational arc, governance, and innovation, invention and creativity. 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 doctoral program. You can find the full text of the Request for Proposals on the Equitable Growth website.

“Equitable Growth’s grantees are filling a void in the research landscape that only a few years ago might have been unimaginable,” says Equitable Growth’s Senior Director of Policy and Academic Programs Elisabeth Jacobs. “Each grantee’s research question is vital in and of itself, but the scholars’ questions and the interdisciplinary nature of their work comes together to help paint a more comprehensive picture about the trends and channels through which economic inequality, is, and is not, affecting economic growth.”

Expanded descriptions of the 2015 grants can be found here.

Building on the research projects of the inaugural class of grantees, Equitable Growth’s 2015 grantees will contribute to the new and growing fields of research in the following areas:

Human capital

Six academic grants will support research on the role of human capital—the talent needed to boost our economy’s productivity.

  • Michael Carr & Emily Wiemers of the University of Massachusetts-Boston will estimate the effect of income inequality on long-run earnings mobility over a working lifetime.
  • Princeton University economist Ezra Oberfield and Devesh Raval of the Federal Trade Commission will explore differences in skills among workers as a potential explanation for the decline in the labor share of income.
  • Armin Rick of Cornell University and the University of Chicago’s Derek Neal will investigate the impact of incarceration on recidivism, human capital accumulation, and labor market outcomes.
  • Daniel Schneider of the University of California-Berkeley and Kristen Harknett of the University of Pennsylvania will quantify the relationship between economic insecurity and family instability.
  • Till von Wachter of the University California-Los Angeles will study the impact of income inequality on young workers’ career progression.
  • Danny Yagan of the University of California-Berkeley will estimate the role of colleges and universities in transmitting income inequality.


Three doctoral grants will support further research on human capital:

  • JooHee Han of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst will explore the relationship between military downsizing and rising incarceration, specifically regarding racial inequality in the labor market.
  • Janelle Jones of Duke University will estimate the impact of the intergenerational transfer of wealth through gifts and inheritances on wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap.
  • Carlos Olmedo of the University of Texas-Austin will study school-to-work transitions for impoverished high school students from Texas’ border cities.


Household balance sheets and macroeconomic stability

Four academic grants will support research that looks at the demand side of the economy, including debt and consumption, in order to broaden our understanding of how demand drives growth by creating markets for goods and services and allowing investors to plan for the future.

  • Enghin Atalay of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Sebastian Sotelo of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Daniel Tannenbaum of the Becker Friedman Institute at the University of Chicago will build a novel new dataset to conduct a historical analysis of the change in skill requirements for jobs.
  • Kyle Herkenhoff of the University of Minnesota and Gordon Phillips of the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business will study the impact of household credit access on job finding rates and earnings.
  • Arjun Jayadev of the University of Massachusetts-Boston and Josh Mason of the City University of New York will assess the effects of changing levels of household and municipal debt on aggregate demand.
  • Atif Mian of Princeton University and Amir Sufi of the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago will investigate the effect of the increase in household debt on the allocation of labor across geographical areas and across industries.


Four doctoral grants will support further research on household balance sheets and macroeconomic stability.

  • Adrien Auclert of Stanford University will construct a model to measure the effects of income inequality on aggregate income and economic growth.
  • Stephanie Chapman of Northwestern University will estimate the effect of student loan debt on recent college graduates’ job search.
  • Jacob Mortenson of Georgetown University will use federal income tax data to investigate intragenerational income mobility, particularly determinants of and responses to earnings shocks.
  • Scott Nelson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will utilize a novel quasi-experimental design based on the uncertainty of tax refunds to better understand how readily low-income households spend an extra dollar of income.



Four academic grants will fund investigations into the quality of government and labor market institutions in fostering economic growth and stability.

  • Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University will conduct an analysis of first contracts to quantify human capital gains for organized low-wage workers, specifically women and minorities.
  • Daniel Carpenter of Harvard University will quantify unequal influence over financial regulation through a large new database of rules changes and comments.
  • Nathan Jensen of George Washington University will study the efficacy of state-and-local tax incentives for job creation and their effects on tax burdens, budgets, and inequality. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation will co-fund this project.
  • Joan Williams of the University California-Hastings, College of the Law, will continue her study of a large-scale intervention testing whether more stable schedules for employees result in cost savings and increased productivity for businesses.


Two doctoral grants will fund further research on governance and labor market institutions.

  • John Voorheis of the University of Oregon will estimate the relationship between rising income inequality and political polarization at the state level.
  • Samir Sonti of the University of California-Santa Barbara will complete a historical study of the Federal Reserve’s target inflation rate and its effect on broader structural shifts in the economy, especially those bearing on the labor market.



One academic grant will fund research into whether and how inequality affects the development of the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs.

  • Qingfang Wang of the University of California-Riverside will study the role of race, ethnicity, and gender in successful entrepreneurship, with particular attention to the role of community-level, place-specific factors. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation will co-fund this project.

Expanded descriptions of the 2015 grants can be found here.


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 economic growth. Core to our mission is helping to build a stronger bridge between academics and policymakers so that new research is relevant, accessible, and informative to the policymaking process. 

August 11, 2015

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