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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. In this area of our work, the ultimate goal is to provide a meaningful contribution to both scholarly and practitioner dialogues on these topics. Beyond the below research papers and briefs, we also publish an occasional blog series that highlights important topics in development data and policy. For more information about our research priorities, please click here.

Peer-Reviewed Scholarship

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

Everything but the Kitchen Sink? Factors Associated with Local Economic Development Strategy Use (June 2019)
Scholarly journal article in collaboration with faculty from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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. Published in Economic Development Quarterly. Download the article.

Building Bonds and Bridges (and Leveraging Links): A Place-Based Mobility Strategy Based on Social Capital Creation (June 2019)
Conference paper and scholarly journal article in collaboration with faculty from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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 semi-structured interviews, this paper explores how North Carolina’s community development ecosystem uses social capital to promote local economic improvements.  Download the paper (or the executive summary brief) and presentation slides presented at the Biannual Federal Reserve Community Development Research Conference in Washington, DC in May 2019 or the version of the paper submitted for review at Contemporary Economic Policy in June 2019.

Does Government Matter in the Formation of Social Capital? Exploring Variation across United States Counties (May 2019)
Conference paper in collaboration with faculty from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Indiana University. 
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 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago, Illinois. Download the paper and presentation slides. This paper is currently under review for possible publication in the Journal of Public Policy.

Research Spotlights

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

Understanding the Importance of Social Capital (January 2019)
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 the spotlight.

Examining the Scope of Florence’s Impact on Small Firms (September 2018)
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 the spotlight.

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 (October 2018)
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 and brief.

Recent Policy Comments

Analyses and commentary on proposed changes to community economic development regulations.

The Community Development Financial Institution Program’s Grant Process (May 2019)
As part of its efforts to support community development, the CDFI Program offers financial and technical assistance grants. These grants seek to ensure meaningful economic outcomes at the local level through a rigorous application process. We suggest a framework to achieve the program’s goals in a manner that also helps strengthen the capacity of local community organizations. Download the public comment.

Reforming the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) Regulatory Framework (November 2018)
The CRA has been a cornerstone of development finance for over 40 years. Federal regulators have proposed several changes around how banking institutions are assessed and evaluated under this law. We propose several ways to ensure the Act remains an effective mechanism for economic development while also promoting better transparency and accountability. Download the public comment.

North Carolina Facts