For completed Economic Development projects click here.

Research and Evaluation of Emerging Practice in Housing and Financial Capability

Roberto Quercia–PI. The UNC Center for Community Capital (CCC) will conduct three affordable housing and financial capability research and evaluation projects for the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. These projects are the following:

  1. CCC will serve as a research partner for three affordable housing organizations that are working to expand financial capability services to their affordable housing clients. The three partner organizations will be the Cleveland Housing Network (CHN), The Resurrection Project (Chicago), and the New York City Housing Authority in collaboration with the New York City Office of Financial Empowerment. CCC’s role will be to provide research and evaluation advisory services to help these organizations document the impact of integrating financial capability services into their affordable housing programs and to inform the larger financial capability and affordable housing fields about best practices and lessons learned from these innovative pilots.
  2. CCC will also research and write a white paper on the potential for financial technology to enhance the delivery and scaling of financial capability services and products to underserved consumers; and
  3. CCC will develop an Opportunity Assessment that JPMC might use in any of its funding sites.  The Opportunity Assessment would utilize a two-fold approach: first, the creation of a data-driven index of place-based opportunity that will provide JPMC and its community partners with an important tool with which to assess and refine community development and investment strategies; and second, the use of community-level research that will help residents and community organizations define and take ownership of the vibrancy and well-being of their immediate and broader neighborhoods.  The Opportunity Assessment we propose has housing at its center, since the home is the site where residents and opportunity meet.  Central to our analysis is one driving question: how can housing be leveraged to promote household and community prosperity?”
Assist with Evaluating the Financial Solutions Lab’s First Challenge

Lucy Gorham–PI. The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) and JPMorgan Chase have partnered to create the Financial Solutions Lab (FSL) – a community of startups, financial services companies, and nonprofit organizations building solutions to improve the financial lives of Americans. The goal of the lab is to identify, test, and bring to scale financial innovations that substantially improve the lives of working Americans. The UNC Center for Community Capital (CCC) will provide CFSI with research design, management, and data analysis services to evaluate the Financial Solutions Lab’s first Innovation Challenge which has brought together a group of nine organizations currently building or expanding products and/or services to meet consumers’ financial needs. CCC’s role in the project includes providing research and evaluation services directly to CFSI as follows: 1) providing light advisory services on individual evaluation plans for nine cohort companies, 2) evaluating the FSL project launch and innovator selection process for the first Innovation Challenge, and 3) evaluating the delivery of support to participating innovators.

The State of North Carolina’s Cities

Todd OwenPI. Cities are economic drivers for our state as they generate civic pride and identity that helps to sustain them. The well-being of North Carolina’s cities is critically important to the prosperity of the state and its citizens, but there has been insufficient attention paid to the current health of our cities. This research, funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, will assess changes in the urban well-being of North Carolina’s forty-four largest cities that represent forty percent of the state’s population. Researchers will create an index of urban conditions to evaluate how these cities are doing compared to the state as a whole and to the other cities in the study. Changes in individual cities will be measured over time. The Center for Urban & Regional Studies has collected data—population growth, poverty rates, per capita income, housing cost burdens, overcrowding, educational attainment, employment, unemployment, crime, and percentage of population between the ages of 25-34–to document recent changes and trends and to establish baselines to assess future community change. The study draws on the American Community Survey data that will be released over the next two years, expand the number and types of indicators, conduct an in-depth analysis of the data, and develop maps and web-based displays to illustrate findings in easily understandable and downloadable formats. The study will investigate the feasibility/availability of data for additional indicators on topics including: human health; transportation; environment; fiscal health; and more detailed education, employment, housing, income, and poverty data. See this project’s website or contact Todd Owen at for more detail.

An Institutional Exploration of Urban Competitiveness and Climate Adaptation Through Two Sectoral Lenses

Meenu Tewari–PI. This project is situated at the intersection of three inter-linked challenges that confront city managers in many rapidly growing developing economies today: the challenge of fostering economic growth; of managing a complex urbanization process that is picking up speed; and of simultaneously coping with the new stressors of climate change—rising temperatures, intensified and uncertain precipitation, droughts that might threaten food and water security, urban flooding, storm surges and seal level rise—that are having an increasing impact on local economies and the wellbeing of citizens as evidenced by the growing number of weather related extreme events that disrupted life in so many cities in the past years—from Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in the US, to Hurricane Haiyan in the Philippines and the devastating Mumbai and Uttarakhand floods in India. How can cities adapt to these new pressures without compromising on their development and economic growth goals?

To answer these questions we will reframe the old “tradeoffs” debate between growth and climate into one that simultaneously explores synergies between the growth and climate security. We focus on cities in a large, rapidly growing emerging economy, India, where both growth and responsible environmentalism are necessary to secure the livelihoods of millions, provide jobs and economic growth while pulling people out of poverty in a climate safe way. However it is in precisely these contexts, where resources are constrained, data are poor and institutional capacity is under stress that policy makers see investments in climate adaption (or resilience) as taking scarce resources away their developmental goals. Even while their high densities and large vulnerable populations puts a great number of people at eventual climate risk. Our goal therefore is to make an economic argument for motivating climate action, particularly adaptive action.

PayGoal Evaluation

Kim Manturuk and Jessica DorranceCo-PIs. The UNC Center for Community Capital (CCC) will partner with Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners (NTFP) to conduct an evaluation of the PayGoal project. This evaluation will determine whether PayGoal is an effective way to help lower-wage workers transition away from higher-cost financial services such as check cashing. The evaluation will also measure the impacts that PayGoal has on participants’ credit reports, progress towards savings goals, debt levels, and beliefs about money management. The evaluation will use data collected before participants enroll in PayGoal and at several points throughout the project in order to understand how PayGoal fits in people’s overall financial lives.

Inside Monoscopy: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Understanding How Labor Standards Shape Employment Practices in the Restaurant Industry

T. William Lester–PI. This study will test the major predictions of how firms in a monopsonistic labor market actively re-shape the employment relationship in response to higher labor standards. Specifically, this study will use a nested quantitative and qualitative research design of the restaurant industry across several fundamentally different institutional settings, namely San Francisco—where employers face the nation’s highest minimum wage, a pay-or-play health care mandate, and paid sick leave requirements—to the Research Triangle region—where there are no locally enacted labor standards. The key hypothesis tested is that labor standards effectively “take away the low-road” option for employers and, as a result, we expect to observe a greater degree of dispersion in employment practices in RTP than SF.

Durham Innovation Fund Professional Development

Mark McDaniel–PI. Bridges2Success (B2S) is an early childhood-to-career research and demonstration collaborative focused on helping males of color achieve academic and life success. Our view is that for minority males, difficulties often begin early in life–perhaps even before birth–and that the structural, organizational, and individual obstacles become ever more daunting as they move progressively through the life course. The project with the Durham Innovation Fund will involve implementation of a comprehensive professional development program, including a series of ongoing, specialized B2S teacher professional development modules to help teachers and schools improve the academic and social outcomes of their male students. The B2S professional development modules are designed to provide teachers with the opportunity to examine in-depth males’ achievement and engagement in their classes, to reflect on their pedagogy and practices for engaging and supporting males’ learning, and to replace ineffective practices with evidence-based practices and enact policies that will result in improved outcomes for males. The professional development modules will contain opportunities for participants to learn about the latest research, to engage their peers in identifying successful practices, to rehearse and role-play alternative strategies and techniques, and to develop patterns of monitoring their own and males’ progress over time.

Assessing the Impacts of Pairing Coaching with Financial Products: Research on Effective Money Management/Manejo de Efectivo

Jessica Dorrance–PI. The four-city pilot project tests product, incentive, outreach, and support innovations for encouraging regular savings patterns with a goal of building long-term, beneficial banking relationships anchored on savings accounts for under- or poorly-served Latino households. It will also generate important insights about the challenges and opportunities inherent in offering mainstream banking services to and building financial capability of underserved Latino households. Participants in the Effective Money Management/Manejo de Efectivo program meet one-on-one with financial coaches for one year. The coaching focuses on increasing knowledge, improving budgeting skills, using banking services, establishing and maintaining credit, building savings, using insurance, and protecting assets. Counselors work with participants to assess their current financial situation, help tailor a financial action plan to achieve both short- and long-term financial goals, and track progress over a 12-month period. The ultimate goal is to develop a customer acquisition approach that fosters long-term attachment to mainstream financial institutions and products and to make a significant impact on market practices and to inform policy in this arena.

­ Bridge2Success Athletic Coaches Training Academy

Mark McDaniel–PI. This project will address one element of the multifaceted crisis in high school and college athletics today: the lack of youth development training among middle and high school athletic coaches.  Prior research reveals that middle and high school coaches have an indelible impact of on the student athletes they work with in organized sports.  But few of these coaches have any formal training in youth development.  Moreover, some have not completed college and therefore do not have a full appreciation of the value-add of being a “scholar” athlete as opposed to a “student” athlete.  And some coaches—irrespective of their college graduation status–are not full time employees of the public school system with responsibilities on the curricular side of education.  Rather, they coach on a contractual basis and therefore are engaged only minimally, if at all, in the academic life of the students they coach. Given this state of affairs, the researchers will draw on the interdisciplinary research, skills, and talents of members of our B2Success Scholars Advisory Panel and the evidence-based best practices from the successful pathways through child and youth development literature to give coaches a model for facilitating player development on and off the field, track or court. Drawing on the expertise of our B2S Scholars Advisory Panel on K-12 Education Reform we developed a professional development program that focuses on athlete physical health, psychological development, and academic readiness, and piloted the training with 24 Durham Public Schools middle- and high-school coaches to become holistic youth development workers who are capable of providing student athletes with the protection, affection, correction, and connections that research indicates they need to excel on and off the field.

Research Advisory Services on Small Dollar Credit Programs

Janneke Ratcliffe and Lucy Gorham–Co-PIs. The Center for Community Capital (CCC) will advise the CFSI in developing a research agenda for a new Small Dollar Credit (SDC) demonstration program, featuring approximately six financial institutions’ innovative SDC programs.

The Case for Financial Capability

Lucy Gorham–PI. The paper will examine the latest literature and evidence to: examine the case for improving financial capability, describe the impact of efforts to do so, and identify opportunities for further innovation, investment and research. The paper will review the evidence about interventions that have proven effective or hold promise to be effective, as well as identify gaps where evidence is missing or inconclusive or where research has failed to show effectiveness. This white paper is intended to demonstrate the importance of building effectiveness research into the innovation process.

Evaluating the Impacts of Impulse Savings Using Piggymojo

Jessica Dorrance and Kimberly Manturuk–Co-PIs. Kinecta Credit Union is working to enroll customers into the Piggymojo product. Piggymojo is aimed at increasing “impulse savings” through the use of specific technology that will help participants quantify and enjoy the act of saving towards a personalized goal. This project will evaluate the Piggymojo project to determine how effective the product was for the users, what elements of the product were most useful for increasing savings and achieving savings goals, and how this method of savings compared to other methods.