2020 Request for Proposals


The Washington Center for Equitable Growth seeks to deepen our understanding of whether and how inequality affects economic growth and stability. Our academic grants program consists of a portfolio of cutting-edge scholarly research investigating the various channels through which economic inequality may or may not impact economic growth and stability, both directly and indirectly.

Equitable Growth considers proposals that investigate the link between economic inequality and individuals’ economic outcomes and well-being, poverty and mobility from poverty, the macroeconomy, and sustainability. We are particularly interested in dimensions of inequality, including race, ethnicity, gender, and place, as well as the ways in which public polices affect the relationship between inequality and growth.

We support inquiry using many different kinds of evidence, relying on a variety of methodological approaches and cutting across academic disciplines, as well as projects about measurement and data collection insofar as they relate to the research questions outlined below.

Equitable Growth supports efforts to increase diversity in the economics profession and across the social sciences. We recognize the importance of diverse perspectives in broadening and deepening the Center’s research on these topics of core interest.

Our request for proposals is organized around the following four channels of growth, but we are willing to consider any research projects investigating whether and how inequality affects economic growth and stability.


How does economic inequality affect the development of human capital and intergenerational mobility? To what extent can the institutions that support the development of human capital—from early childhood care to the social safety net—mitigate inequality’s potential impacts on human capital development and enhance well-being and growth? Through what channels do these effects occur?

Areas of interest include but are not limited to:

Human capital development: How does inequality and access to opportunity impact the potential for the development of human capital across gender, race, ethnicity, and place, as well as across income, earnings, or wealth distributions? What policy interventions or structural changes targeting human capital development may be effective in breaking the link between family background and economic outcomes? What characteristics of neighborhoods have a causal effect on the development of human capital and on intergenerational mobility? Relatedly, which place-based programs or interventions are most effective in promoting economic mobility, and for whom?

Well-being: What role do public policies such as labor market regulations, social insurance, and safety net policies play in the development of human capital and access to opportunities over the life cycle? What role do they play in individual and family well-being, labor force participation, and consumption? How do social safety net programs that support well-being impact the macroeconomy?


How does inequality affect the labor market? How does the labor market affect equitable growth? What are the labor market impacts on intergenerational mobility, and have changes in employment relations, particularly related to domestic outsourcing, impacted the opportunity for job advancement and mobility? How prevalent is discrimination in the labor market and what are its effects? What role does technology play in the organization of and returns to work? How do different technologies that facilitate outsourcing work to third-party providers shed light on how the workforce and workplaces are likely to change?

Areas of interest include but are not limited to:

Power in labor markets: What is the relative bargaining power of workers versus employers, what influences that balance, and how does it affect pay levels, job quality, and economic growth? Do structural barriers or social norms affect labor market dynamics? What role do public policies, unions, and other forms of workplace organization play in determining labor market power?

Workplace organization: How are labor market institutions succeeding or failing in the face of new forms of workplace organization? How prevalent are nontraditional work arrangements, such as contracting, domestic outsourcing, or gig work, and what are their implications for earnings levels and volatility, tenure and job security, access to benefits, and legal protections under the law? Do those effects differ for different demographic groups?

Returns to work: What factors affect how economywide growth is or is not shared between different types of workers? To what degree do aggregate productivity changes pass through to individuals and via which mechanisms? How does domestic outsourcing affect wage determination in outsourcing and outsourced firms? How is inequality shaping the relationship between nonmarket and market work and individuals’ decisions on how to divide their time between the two?


What are the implications of the large and sustained increase in inequality across income and wealth groups, as well as the disparate performance of different geographies and demographic groups, for the long-term stability of our economy and its growth potential? What are the implications of this increase for public policy, and how do public policies affect these relationships? What is the relationship between wealth accumulation and the intergenerational transfer of wealth on intra- and intergenerational economic mobility? How do wealth transfers impact economic mobility differently for different groups? What are the main channels through which high and rising income inequality and a high and increasing share of property income in total income can affect macroeconomic performance and the response of the economy to macro policy?

Areas of interest include but are not limited to:

Business cycle dynamics: Has high inequality changed the frequency, severity, or duration of downturns? Has it increased the financial vulnerability of households in ways that influence the business cycle?

Monetary policy: Do monetary policy instruments or rules have important distributional effects? Does (and should) monetary policy operate differently in an economy with high inequality and a high capital share of income?

Fiscal and tax policy: What are the implications of increasing inequality for countercyclical fiscal policy? How does the tax system affect inequality in incomes, wealth, and other measures of well-being?

Political economy: Is inequality challenging the effectiveness of political institutions? What is the relationship between domestic economic inequality and global economic integration?


What is the role of market structure in determining economic growth and its distribution? What is the relationship between inequality, market power, and economic growth? We are interested in research from an aggregate perspective, which has been common in the macroeconomic and labor literatures, as well as industry- or market-specific analysis that has been the focus of industrial organization literatures.

Areas of interest include but are not limited to:

Existence and causes of market power: Is there increased market power in the economy, and if so, what are its causes? Areas of interest include studies of mergers, potential competition, and specific conduct. Is anticompetitive activity more common in some industries than others?

Consequences of market power: What are the effects of market power on product markets, labor markets, new business formation, firm growth, business investment, productivity, and inequality? How have technological developments affected competition?

Effectiveness of policy tools: Equitable Growth is particularly interested in empirical work that examines the effectiveness of policies to promote competition, including, but not limited to, the state of antitrust enforcement, regulatory approaches, and comparisons of the United States’ enforcement regime with other models.


Solicitations are open to researchers affiliated with U.S. universities. Equitable Growth has two funding streams: academic and doctoral/postdoctoral.

Academic grants are open to researchers affiliated with a U.S. university. The affiliated university must administer the grant.

Doctoral/postdoctoral 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 postdoctoral position at a U.S. university. If you are currently a graduate student or in a postdoctoral position, you may choose to apply for either an academic or doctoral/postdoctoral 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.

Academic grants are typically in the $25,000 to $100,000 range over 1 to 3 years. We frequently partner with other foundations to support projects jointly or to share proposals that are not a fit for our grant program, but which may be of interest to other funders.

Doctoral/postdoctoral grants are funded at $15,000 over 1 year.

For more information about the level of funding we provide, please go to our funded research page.


Equitable Growth is building a pipeline of scholars doing cutting-edge research on inequality and growth. Our Dissertation Scholars program is in-resident and provides Ph.D. candidates with financial and professional support to pursue their own research and to gain familiarity with current policy discussions and the policy process.

The position is open to predissertation scholars who are currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at a U.S. university and whose research aligns with Equitable Growth’s funding priorities. Dissertation scholars are given an annualized $50,000 stipend, office space, and professional support, and are expected to support Equitable Growth’s grant program.

Scheduling is flexible to permit for travel to home institutions, as well as academic conferences. Tenure is for one academic year.

To apply to the Dissertation Scholars program, submit a proposal for a doctoral/postdoctoral grant and select Dissertation Scholars program on the application form. In addition to a proposal, application to the program requires two academic letters of reference, preferably from your chair and an advisor, and a statement of purpose.

Letters of reference should be submitted via email to grants@equitablegrowth.org. All other application materials will be uploaded through the online application form.

The statement of purpose should be approximately two pages and should describe your motivating research questions, the direction you anticipate your research agenda taking, and how that relates to Equitable Growth’s mission. It should also describe how you hope to spend your time in Washington, and how that will help further your career/research. Dissertation Scholar applicants will automatically be considered for a doctoral grant.

Applicants selected to move forward in the Dissertation Scholar process will be asked to interview with Equitable Growth staff in person in late March 2020. Selection decisions will be announced in April 2020.


To apply for an academic grant, submit a letter of inquiry using the online submission form.

Letters of inquiry are short descriptions of a research project. They should be approximately two pages (about 1,500 words) in length. Letters of inquiry that are more than 1,500 words will not be considered. While we do not want to be overly prescriptive, the word limit is designed to encourage concision and clarity.

Letters of inquiry must include:

  • Problem addressed by the research
  • Expected contribution to the literature
  • Methodological approach, including data sources and research design
  • Timeline for completion

We encourage applicants to consider policy implications. Development of new data sources is also of interest.

If tables, graphs, or other images are helpful in explaining your project, they can be included. While they will not count against the word limit, we encourage you to limit the use of images to one or two.

A preliminary budget is also required and should be submitted as a brief narrative (approximately 150 words). At this stage, we are interested in the total expected cost of the project and a general breakdown of those costs (such as salary, research assistance, costs associated with data collection, travel, or conference fees). If applicable, please include a brief description of other secured or anticipated funding sources for the proposed work. A more detailed project budget will be required for applicants who are invited to submit a full proposal.

An abbreviated curriculum vitae (five pages) is also required.


Letters of inquiry for academic grants have a new deadline. These are now due by 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 12, 2020.

If invited, full proposals will be due by 11:59 p.m. EDT on May 3, 2020.

Full proposals will be reviewed by our research and policy staff, external peer reviewers, and members of our Steering Committee.

Funding decisions will be announced by July 2020. We anticipate that funds will be distributed in early fall 2020, though the timing of disbursement depends in part on the particulars of the project and the researcher’s home institution.


To apply for a doctoral/postdoctoral grant, complete the online submission form.

Doctoral/postdoctoral applicants do not need to submit a letter of inquiry. Professional references are also not required if only applying for a doctoral/postdoctoral grant, though we do require a curriculum vitae.

Doctoral/postdoctoral proposals should be approximately six single-spaced pages with standard font and margins (not including bibliography). Proposals should address the following:

  • The problem or question your research seeks to address
  • How it relates to Equitable Growth’s mission
  • Anticipated contribution to the literature
  • Detailed methodological approach, including data sources and research design
  • Potential policy implications
  • A timeline for completion

A preliminary budget is also required and should be submitted as a narrative. If direct costs such as data purchase or research assistance are anticipated, they should be listed. If funding will be used for support only, simply state that.


Doctoral/postdoctoral submissions are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday February 2, 2020.

Funding decisions will be announced by July 2020. We anticipate that funds will be distributed by the start of the 2020–2021 academic year, though the timing of disbursement depends in part on the particulars of the project and whether it will be administered as an individual or institutional grant.

The majority of doctoral/postdoctoral grants are administered as individual grants and are awarded directly to the individual.

Institutional grants are typically awarded when the grantee is not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Recipients must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to receive funding directly. Otherwise, funding is administered through the university. A decision on funding type is not needed until after awards are announced, although non-U.S. persons are advised to communicate their intention to apply with their institution to ensure adherence to institutional protocol if funded.


Submit your proposal by completing the online application form.

If you have questions or are having trouble with the online form, please email grants@equitablegrowth.org.

If you are having trouble with the online form and it is nearing the deadline, you may email your application materials as an attachment to grants@equitablegrowth.org.

Please specify which grant your application materials are for in the body of your email if you email application materials.


We are grateful for the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which is generously supporting Equitable Growth’s 2020 Request for Proposals in order to spur research on the impact of domestic outsourcing on the U.S. workforce. We encourage research that explores this issue from a range of methodological approaches and from across disciplines in order to help us better understand the ways in which employment relations are affecting workers, as well as firm dynamics.

We are similarly grateful for the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in helping to advance innovative research on economic mobility and access to opportunity in the United States. Please note that the areas of interest listed here are intended to illustrate the interdisciplinary nature of economic mobility research. On their own, they are not indicative of the programmatic priorities and advocacy objectives of the foundation.