Monday, November 9, 2015
Wm. T. Grant Foundation Report: Scarcity of Funding for Research on Youth Inequality
NEW YORK — A new report, released today by the William T. Grant Foundation, examines the funding landscape for research on inequality among young people in the United States. In addition to revealing a scarcity of funding for this research, the report shows that, despite increased attention to inequality from foundation funders and government agencies alike, there are relatively few organizations that support research on youth inequality on a national scale.
The report, Investing in Knowledge: Insights on the Funding Landscape for Research on Inequality among Young People in the United States, by Sarah K. Bruch of the University of Iowa, draws on an examination of materials from 300 funding organizations, as well as interviews with researchers and with staff from foundations and government agencies. To be included, organizations had to have either an explicitly expressed interest in inequality and young people or youth-serving systems, or a reputation for funding inequality research that affects young people as a population or in institutions.
Investing in Knowledge was commissioned by the William T. Grant Foundation as it entered the second year of its grantmaking initiative on identifying and understanding responses to inequality among young people. With the report, the Foundation sought to review the field of public and private funders to identify opportunities and gaps that would inform how the Foundation could pursue its work, as well as highlight potential avenues of collaboration.
“Private foundations can help reduce inequality in several ways. They can contribute to evidence-based programs and services that improve opportunities for the disadvantaged. But another important role for private foundations is to support research that addresses key questions about reducing inequality,” said Foundation President Adam Gamoran. “The enormous scope of the challenge of inequality means that even the largest contributions to programs and services will make little headway unless they are applied in the most powerful ways possible.”
For the majority of the 300 foundations that were examined for the report, advocacy and support for direct service are the most common strategies for addressing inequality among young people. Only 33 were found to support research on youth inequality on a national scale. A handful of government funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, on the other hand, support research as the primary means of achieving their stated missions, yet rarely target their efforts to inequality or disparity among young people, focusing instead on building knowledge to improve outcomes for all.
“If our goal is to reduce the effects of today’s inequality on tomorrow’s society, then research on inequality among young people is essential” writes Bruch. “The time is ripe for funders of research, both public and private, to take stock of whether and how this aim is being addressed.”
In addition to outlining the dominant approaches of funding organizations that support research on youth inequality in the U.S., Bruch offers three strategies for advancing efforts to understand and address youth inequality: more resources to build research capacity, a more inclusive pool of researchers focusing on youth inequality, and broader and more integrated approaches to research.