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About Our Research and Policy Program

We believe economic and community development are intertwined and should be integrated in public policy. To promote this idea, our research program highlights a variety of issues related to the needs and impact of small and medium-sized firms. Additionally, through transparent evaluation and analyses of our programs, we seek to demonstrate the importance of data accountability for community developers. In this area of our work, the ultimate goal is to provide a meaningful contribution to both scholarly and practitioner dialogues on these topics.

Peer-Reviewed Scholarship

Collaborative articles published in scholarly journals and papers presented at research conferences.

Building Bonds and Bridges (and Leveraging Links): A Place-Based Mobility Strategy Based on Social Capital Creation
Organizations which seek to address barriers facing economically distressed communities have long been considered a cornerstone of sustainable development policy. But the complexity of place-based challenges – including increasing income inequality and generational poverty – has made the practice of community development more difficult than perhaps ever before. One approach to addressing these issues is the leverage of trust, norms, and social networks to increase the efficacy of community development programs.  Drawing on data from semistructured interviews, this paper explores how North Carolina’s community development ecosystem uses social capital to promote local economic improvements.  Presented at the 2019 Federal Reserve Community Development Research Conference. Download the Paper.

Does Government Matter in the Formation of Social Capital? Exploring Variation in across United States Counties
Community developers and public policy actors are increasingly utilizing social capital strategies to promote economic growth and revitalize distressed neighborhoods. Analyses of county-level data through a Blinder-Oacaxa decomposition suggest a need to carefully consider how the productive value of community variables that raise social capital change across place. These findings contrast with dominant social capital explanatory narratives that tend to draw solely on regional or demographic determinism. Presented at the 77th Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, Illinois. Download the Paper and Presentation Slides.

Everything but the Kitchen Sink? Factors Associated with Local Economic Development Strategy Use
Local city and county governments have a variety of policy options available to them when engaging in community and economic development. From small business development to affordable housing to industrial recruitment, the menu of strategies a locality could deploy to promote economic growth are numerous.  Two schools of thought prevail on how municipalities make decisions in this important area of public policy. Data collected through an original survey of North Carolina’s local government, and analyzed through a series of regression models, offer some insight to this theoretical debate. Accepted for publication and in press at Economic Development Quarterly. Download.

Research Spotlights

Succinct, high-level overviews of theoretical debates, data trends, and emergent scholarly literature.

Understanding the Importance of Social Capital
In recent years, the idea that business relationships between entrepreneurs have an innate economic development dimension has been given much attention by scholars. The theory of social capital suggests that networks created by small and medium sized firms can be harnessed to promote outcomes like lower income inequality and sustainable growth. Community development organizations can serve as key social capital generators. Download.

Examining the Scope of Florence’s Impact on Small Firms
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Florence, little data was available on how North Carolina’s small business community might be impacted. Drawing on existing data allowed a high-level overview how many small firms operated in counties hardest hit by the storm. These findings, which have since been confirmed by more rigorous economic modeling, show the state’s entrepreneurs need ongoing assistance to fully recover. Download.

Research Reports

In-depth analyses and assessment of relevant policy issues for both scholars and practitioners.

Veteran-Owned Firms: Assessing Current Research and Evaluating Impacts 
North Carolina is fortunate to be home to large numbers of Veteran-Owned employer firms that have out-sized economic impact. Although existing data on Veteran needs is limited, current research suggests Veteran entrepreneurs face unique challenges related to access to capital. We suggest benchmarks for evaluating community developer success in this area using Carolina Small Businesses lending data. Download the Full Report or Brief.

Research Archives

To review a collection of past publications, click here.

North Carolina Facts