WorkRise Awards $2.1 Million for Research on Accelerating Economic Mobility and Advancing Equity in the US Labor Market

Media contact: Archana Pyati, apyati@urban.org or (202) 261-5614

December 14, 2020WorkRise, a research-to-action network hosted by the Urban Institute, has awarded just over $2 million in grants for research on accelerating economic mobility and advancing racial and gender equity for workers in the US labor market, particularly those in low-wage jobs and occupations.

The nine research projects that will receive funding reflect WorkRise’s commitment to developing evidence that will inform decisionmaking and drive action toward rebuilding the labor market in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic recession. The projects employ a diverse set of approaches and methods, including those that analyze the effectiveness of new or established policies, practices, or programs in supporting labor market opportunity and mobility. Several will generate original data analyses and datasets that illuminate trends, yield actionable insights, and deepen our understanding of disparities and equity gaps in labor market experiences and outcomes for workers. 

The project topics represent the core pillars of WorkRise’s emerging research agenda, including macroeconomic trends and federal policy; employer practices; worker voice, power and representation; workforce skills and training; job search and matching strategies; and supportive services outside work that facilitate labor market success. This inaugural slate of projects is the first set of awards WorkRise will make annually to support pathbreaking research on solutions to accelerate economic mobility and build a more equitable labor market.

These are the nine funded projects and their principal investigators:

  • How Does Federal and State Wage and Employment Policy Shape Racial Disparities in Earnings and Economic Mobility?
    Ellora Derenoncourt, Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy, and Claire Montialoux, Assistant Professor, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley
  • How Does Short-Term Compensation Shape Labor Market Outcomes?
    Till von Wachter, Professor of Economics and Faculty Director, California Policy Lab, University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); and Robert Santillano, Research Director, California Policy Lab, UCLA
  • Using Matched-Pair Testing to Uncover Unlawful Employment Practices through the Use of Temporary Staffing
    Sheila Maddali and Chris Williams, Co-Directors, National Legal Advocacy Network; and Marc Bendick, Jr., Bendick and Egan Economic Consultants, Inc.
  • Schedule Control at IKEA: How Does Worker Schedule Control Impact Employee Economic Security and Mobility?
    Daniel Schneider, Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School of Government; and Kristen Harknett, Associate Professor, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of California, San Francisco
  • A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Pursuit Fellowship
    David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Lawrence Katz, Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics, Harvard University and Co-Scientific Director, J-PAL North America; Matthew Notowidigdo, Professor of Economics, University of Chicago Booth School of Business; and Jukay Hsu, Co-Founder and CEO, Pursuit
  • Creating Paths for STARs: Increasing Mobility Opportunities for Workers without BA Degrees
    Papia Debroy, Vice President of Insights, Opportunity@Work; and Peter Q. Blair, Assistant Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • How Does Task Assignment Increase Workers’ Earnings Mobility?
    Nathan Wilmers, Sarofim Career Development Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management; and Letian Zhang, Assistant Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School
  • Impacts of Extending Child Care Subsidies for Education and Training
    Gina Adams and Linda Giannarelli, Senior Fellows, Urban Institute
  • Cash and Near-Cash Safety Net Programs and Labor Market Outcomes
    Bradley Hardy, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Public Administration and Policy, American University

WorkRise received 343 applications for funding in response to a Request for Proposal issued in May 2020. Of those applications, 16 were invited to submit full proposals, which were reviewed by WorkRise’s Leadership Board and staff as well as external subject matter experts. Nine projects received approval from the Leadership Board on November 23, 2020. The selection criteria considered the project’s relevance to priority topics identified by the WorkRise Leadership Board, potential impact on policy and practice, feasibility, methodology, timeliness, and whether the project furthers understanding of racial/ethnic, gender, age, and geographic inequities. The selection process also considered diversity across multiple demographic dimensions, including diversity of the research teams, institutional leadership, and institutional types.

WorkRise Leadership Board bylaws require board members who submit proposals for consideration to recuse themselves from reviewing their own proposals. However, they are permitted to review other proposals for funding. This bylaw was applied to the proposal submitted by David Autor, who serves on the WorkRise Leadership Board and is a member of the Urban Institute Board of Trustees. In addition, as an Urban Institute employee, WorkRise’s executive director is required to recuse themselves from proposals submitted by Urban Institute researchers. These proposals must also receive approval from three-quarters of the WorkRise Leadership Board. This principle was applied when evaluating the proposal from grantees Gina Adams and Linda Giannarelli.

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About WorkRise

WorkRise is a research-to-action network on jobs, workers, and mobility hosted by the Urban Institute, and a national platform for identifying, testing, and sharing bold ideas for transforming the labor market. WorkRise’s founding funders are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Mastercard Impact Fund administered by the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth. WorkRise also receives support from the Walmart Foundation, the Cognizant U.S. Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, General Motors, and other funders.

About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is a leading research organization dedicated to developing evidence-based insights that improve people’s lives and strengthen communities. For 50 years, Urban has been the trusted source for rigorous analysis of complex social and economic issues; strategic advice to policymakers, philanthropists, and practitioners; and new, promising ideas that expand opportunities for all. Our work inspires effective decisions that advance fairness and enhance the well-being of people and places.