RESEARCH November 30, 2023

Request for proposals: Research grants for early career scholars


The Washington Center for Equitable Growth seeks to invest in early career scholars whose research agendas are policy relevant, related to how inequality affects economic growth, and who are interested in engaging with nonacademic audiences. 

We are interested in research that will generate actionable insights. This includes research that illuminates the policies that help or hinder more equitable growth in the United States, as well as research that illuminates the need for a policy response. Equitable Growth takes an expansive view of policy, encompassing legislation, investments, regulations, standards, and oversight, among others. Research proposals should relate to the broad areas of the economy described below. The research can take a macro perspective and focus on aggregate outcomes, or a micro perspective and focus on outcomes for individuals, families, or businesses. The development of policy proposals will also be considered but should be grounded in empirical research.

We are particularly interested in researchers who, as their career progresses, are willing and able to engage with media and policymakers on their research. Social scientists and research can play a powerful role in shaping policy. Grantees will have the opportunity to participate in trainings and receive assistance in translating research for media and policymakers to help equip Equitable Growth’s network with the necessary skills and opportunities to shape public debates and policy outcomes, including via temporary government service.

Equitable Growth promotes efforts to increase diversity in the economics profession and across the social sciences. We recognize the importance of diverse perspectives in broadening and deepening research on the topics in this Request for Proposals and the need to elevate diverse voices to shape debates and policy solutions. Early career grants and the grantee resources that accompany them are intended to support early career scholars looking to advance their academic careers, as well as engage with nonacademic audiences.

This Request for Proposals is open to:

  • Graduate students currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at a U.S. college or university who are in the dissertation stage of their graduate career
  • Early career scholars at a U.S. college or university whose Ph.D. was issued within the past 8 years

Funding priorities

We support research inquiry using many different types of evidence, relying on a variety of methodological approaches and cutting across academic disciplines.

Preference is given to projects that create new data that can be made publicly available, to studies that engage with relevant literature across disciplines, and to projects where the research question also touches upon the role that racial stratification may play in the inquiry being posed.

Early career grants are intended to support individuals to advance their research agenda and career, including through engagement beyond academia. In addition to the financial support provided by the grant, early career grant recipients will have access to our grantee resources. We will also work to provide opportunities for grantees to serve in government in temporary positions. The research agenda described in research statements, and its relevance both to policy and to the priorities listed below, are therefore weighed alongside the merits of the research proposal. We also take into consideration applicants’ interest and potential to engage beyond academia.

The following are the broad areas of research that are of interest to us. Proposed research does not have to be limited to the questions under each area so long as the research falls within the broad area and has implications for inequality and economic growth.

Macroeconomic growth

  • How can policy best support the supply side of the economy to generate equitable growth? What government policies are most effective at crowding-in private investment and spurring growth?
  • How can government combine policies that advance equity with policies that advance economic growth in ways that enhance both?
  • How can economic modeling better inform government policy aimed at adapting to climate change? We are especially interested in models that will inform policies at the community or industry levels, those that take extremes and not just averages into account, and those that can more effectively consider the role of capital and labor frictions, as well as the effect of nonprice policies.

Fiscal policy

  • What are the distributional effects of fiscal policy, and do they differ across different demographic groups?
  • How did the fiscal policy response to the COVID-19 recession affect its severity and scarring effects, and how does it compare to previous recessions?
  • How have changes to the tax code affected economic growth and inequality? We are interested in aggregate outcomes, firm outcomes, and household/individual outcomes.

Human capital & well-being

  • What are the long-term returns to investments in children and families?
  • How do policies designed to promote individual and family well-being affect labor force participation, consumption, or other outcomes?

Economic mobility

  • What policies, especially at scale, may be effective in making upward mobility more attainable and equitable?
  • What mechanisms explain the strong correlations we see in who achieves upward mobility? While we are interested in both contemporary and historical approaches to these questions, we are particularly interested in research that will clarify indicators to guide policymaking today.

Labor market

  • How can policy most effectively foster strong matching of workers to firms?
  • How can policy most effectively create high-quality jobs? How can policies ensure a balance of power in the labor market, both across firms and between firms and workers?
  • What are the firm effects of policies intended to improve worker well-being?
  • What are the effects of policies intended to ensure that the introduction of new technologies augment work and lead to high-quality jobs? Where are current policies falling short in the face of rapid technological advancements?

 Market structure

  • How effective are policies intended to promote competition, including but not limited to the state of antitrust enforcement and regulatory approaches? We’re also interested in new foundations for antitrust actions that do not necessarily rely on prices, and comparisons of the U.S. antitrust enforcement regime with other models.
  • How have technological developments affected competition? How does market concentration affect the development or deployment of new technologies?

What we fund

Early career grants are open to researchers affiliated with a U.S. university whose Ph.D. was issued within the past 8 years, as well as graduate students currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at a U.S. university. Graduate student applicants should be in the dissertation phase of their graduate program. If you have received tenure, you are not eligible for an early career grant.

Grants to current graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are set at $15,000 over 1 year. International students at U.S. universities are eligible to apply, though if awarded, the grant would likely need to be administered through the university. International students are advised to communicate their intention to apply with their institution to ensure adherence to institutional protocol if funded.

Grants to early career scholars are set at $30,000 over 1–2 years, depending on the timeline of the research project. Applicants do not have to be in a tenure-track position to be eligible. The affiliated university must administer the grant.

We understand that research is collaborative. Applicants may have co-authors who are further along in their career, though those co-authors are not eligible for funding.

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.

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.

How to apply

To apply for an early career grant, submit a five-page proposal, one- to two-page research statement, and two-page abbreviated curriculum vitae using the online application portal. Applicants are encouraged to use this template for the five-page proposal.  

Proposals must include: 

  • Problem addressed by the research 
  • Engagement with and expected contribution to the literature 
  • Methodological approach, including data sources and research design 
  • Status of data access 
  • Policy implications
  • Timeline for completion 

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

Citations can be included as endnotes and do not count against the page limit. 

The application form requires the submission of a preliminary budget in the form of a brief narrative (approximately 150 words). A budget section is not required in the body of the proposal. At this stage, we are interested a general breakdown of how you plan to use the grant award. A detailed project budget will be required for those who are awarded a grant.

Research statements should include:

  • Motivation behind your research agenda
  • Current research
  • Future direction and potential of your research
  • Policy relevance of your research agenda

Abbreviated curriculum vitae:

  • We are particularly interested in examples of interest and experience engaging beyond academia. This could include writing for broad audiences, previous positions, volunteer experience, or membership on committees, among other things.
  • We encourage the inclusion of works-in-progress to the extent that they illuminate your research statement.

The application form requires applicants to provide a general breakdown of the anticipated use of funds. A detailed budget and a letter from your university stating that they are willing to administer the grant are only required once a grant is awarded.

The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. EST on January 29, 2024.

Funding decisions are announced in May 2024, and funding is typically disbursed at the start of the following academic year.

Evaluation criteria

Proposals are evaluated by Equitable Growth staff and external review committees. External reviewers consist of subject-matter and methodological experts ranging from early career to established researchers. External reviewers are chosen with a commitment to diversity of race, gender, discipline, area of study, and university affiliation.  

All applications will be evaluated on the following criteria: 

  • Relevance of the overall application package to Equitable Growth’s funding priorities
  • Potential of the proposed research and overall research agenda to generate actionable insights and inform policy design and implementation
  • Researcher’s potential to engage beyond academia to inform evidence-backed policy solutions 
  • Proposed research questions are appropriately framed within the existing literature 
  • Proposed research has the potential to advance the literature 
  • Methodological soundness of the research design, including appropriate data 

If you have questions regarding your potential grant application to Equitable Growth, please reach out to us via

Feedback prior to submission

Equitable Growth cannot provide feedback on a written proposal prior to the application deadline, but staff are available to meet with applicants to discuss questions they may have. Questions may include, but are not limited to, how to apply, budget guidelines, proposal structure, eligibility, and a project’s relevance to Equitable Growth’s mission and funding priorities.  

Watch this recording of a recent informational webinar to learn more about our funding opportunities, how to apply, and tips for a successful application.

Equitable Growth staff are also available to meet with interested applicants. Please complete this form if you would like to schedule a time with our staff regarding any questions you may have about submitting an application. You will receive an email from to schedule a 15–30 minute Zoom call with Equitable Growth staff best positioned to answer your question(s).

Submit your proposal

Submit your proposal by creating an account and completing the submission form using our online application portal.

If you have questions or are having trouble with the application portal, please email or call 202-276-3368.


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