For completed Economic Development projects click here.

Digital Rocky Mount Mills

Robert Allen–PI. Digital Rocky Mount Mills is a public-facing digital history project, funded in part by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), which aims to recover lost and hidden stories of Rocky Mount Mills in Rocky Mount, North Carolina and to encourage local and family history initiatives. At the core of this project are the Rocky Mount Mills Records at the Southern Historical Collection and a batch of oral histories with former mill employees and slave descendants. These written and oral snapshots of the past are instrumental for the creation of an in-depth historical narrative of Rocky Mount Mills, for the development of K-12 resources for Nash and Edgecombe County educators, and for the construction of family trees of slaves owned by the Battle family, the long-time owners of the mill. The project examines the long history of the mill, from Native American presence on the land to the significance of the Great Falls, from the Civil Rights Movement to the downturn of the textile industry in the United States. Through collaborative efforts between UNC-Chapel Hill units and Rocky Mount-area organizations, the goal is to extend the reach of UNC’s resources in order to foster genealogical and archival skills, encourage historical inquiry and spark concern for historic preservation matters in light of the redevelopment of historic structures and the revitalization of communities. The hope is that Digital Rocky Mount Mills will illuminate how to best preserve and share the stories of a community of a historic site that is being transformed into an entirely different space.

Understanding and Addressing the Disparate Impacts of Employer Use of Credit Reports to Screen Job Applicants

Lucy Gorham–PI. While some states have regulated employer access to the credit histories of job applicants, the practice of using credit reports as a screening tool in a variety of contexts remains widespread, with the implications for employment opportunities being one of the most far-reaching. There is much to learn about the extent to which job applicants are feeling the impact, efforts of consumer advocates to limit employer access to consumer information through state legislation and employment law, and efforts to assist job applicants and consumers more broadly to repair their credit reports as a targeted strategy in the employment context. In response, the UNC Center for Community Capital is proposing to write a white paper on this largely unexplored area that documents current employer and workforce development system practices; explores legal and legislative challenges to the use of credit reports by employers and their impacts; innovations and best practices to help job applicants improve their employability through credit repair; employer, workforce system and community-based efforts to assist employees to improve their financial capability; and the policy and programmatic implications of our findings. The paper will draw on the following methodologies:

  • In-depth review of academic and non-academic articles, reports, and publications
  • Field scan of current city and state workforce development programs to identify innovative approaches that integrate financial capability strategies
  • Survey of state workforce development systems to document current practices and innovative approaches
  • Survey of employers to gauge current practices and how those are evolving in response to a changing legislative environment
  • Key informant interviews with up to 80 individuals in workforce development and job training programs, credit counseling agencies, re-entry programs, community college programs, legal/regulatory experts and consumer advocates. The interviews will include perspectives from states that have regulated the use of credit reporting, cities/states that have implemented innovative models for incorporating credit counseling and financial capability into job training programs, as well as the state workforce development systems from the four key Kellogg geographies of Michigan, New Mexico, Mississippi and Louisiana.
The Impact of Student Loan Debt on Latino Family Finances

Lucy Gorham–PI. In partnership with the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the UNC Center for Community Capital (CCC) will explore the impact of post-secondary education on the finances of Latino households. The project will include 25 in-depth in-person interviews to explore the respondents’ experiences and perceptions on a range of topics related to postsecondary financing and student loan debt. The interviews will take place in 4 specific geographic locations, one location in each of California, Illinois, New York and Texas. CCC will conduct the interviews, analyze the data and write up the findings to be incorporated into a final report produced by NCLR.

An Assessment of Financial Coaching Platforms and Research on the Impact of Student Loan Debt on Household Financial Health

Lucy Gorham–PI. This project includes two key components. The first is an assessment of financial coaching platforms, specifically on-line platforms, which a growing number of organizations now offer in response to the need for greater financial capability tools and resources for households working to improve their financial stability. For this component, we will undertake a comparison study of several on-line financial coaching platforms that will identify the major features and advantages of each for both the practitioner and the client. Questions we will address include ease of use, tools and content, data collection capabilities, costs to users, suitability for diverse subpopulations and potential for scale and sustainability. The second component is research on the impact of student loan debt on household financial health. The challenge of rising student loan debt has received a great deal of attention but too little is known about the impact on broader household financial health, both for students and their parents, and how this impact differs for a variety of sub-populations of students. We will write a report on this topic that will include new quantitative and qualitative research that will capture the experiences of a diverse array of students and their families. We will also interview key personnel at colleges, universities and other higher education training programs in order to capture the institutional perspective. In-depth interviews will be augmented with survey research to tap into a broader sample and/or to offer those interviewed an additional means with which to share their experiences. Understanding these impacts, how families are served by the current loan repayment system, and the strategies they utilize to cope can inform the policy and programmatic response to this important societal issue.

Planning for India’s Urban Century: Urban Innovations and The Search for SMART Alternatives to Business-as-usual Urbanization

Meenu Tewari–PI. India is facing immense urban development challenges, and therefore important and exciting opportunities. During the next two decades India’s urban population is expected to double to 600 million, when this shift is completed nearly 1 in 2 Indians will live in cities. To support this transition, and ensure that economically successful, climate safe and livable cities are fostered as India urbanizes, an extensive body of new research will be needed to influence plans and policy-making. This research proposes to take advantage of advances in geospatial data, and for the first time combine it with on the ground econometric analysis, as well as case studies, to analyze urban growth patterns, their drivers and assess their costs. The research will analyze, assess and maps out the patterns of India’s urbanization and critically analyze the economic, social and environmental costs of business-as-usual urbanization in India. This evidence will provide insights into the benefits of smarter urban development, including proposing innovative approaches towards encouraging more compact and connected urban growth that can support economic development, reduce poverty and cut down carbon emissions.

Economic Development Incentives Research

Bill Lester and Nichola Lowe–Co-PIs. State and local governments spend upwards of $50 billion per year on a wide variety of incentive payments to induce private businesses to locate new or relocate existing establishments within their jurisdictions. Such business attractions bring the promise of additional direct jobs and tax revenue as well as potential downstream impacts throughout a local economy. However, some scholars and analysts criticize incentives as pure corporate welfare that generates a zero-sum “economic war between the states.” Viewed this way, incentives sap public resources from more worthwhile economic development programs, namely entrepreneurial support and workforce development, and thus limit potential job or establishment growth. Although the use of incentives has been debated and researched for decades in the field of economic development, most studies focus on an individual state, specific policy or program or incentivized recruitment deal. This research will link three national databases—the Good Jobs First Incentive Database, the National Establishment Time-Series (NETS) and C2ER State Economic Development Expenditure Database—to investigate whether firms which receive incentive “deals” ultimately create the jobs they promise, and whether their economic performance is higher than a similar set of non-incentivized establishments that relocated without an incentive. By including the C2ER State Economic Development Expenditure Database, we will also explore whether state’s with a more balanced economic development ‘portfolio’ (i.e., with similar public investment in recruitment, entrepreneurship and workforce development) make more effective use of their incentive dollars.

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.

Employer-based Financial Wellness Programs (EFWP) project

Mat Despard–PI. The Employer-based Financial Wellness Programs (EFWP) project seeks to generate new evidence concerning workplace financial wellness programs as a promising strategy for building financial security among low-to-moderate income (LMI) populations in the workforce. The research team seeks to answer the following research questions through its descriptive, cross-sectional study design: 1. To what extent does access to employer-sponsored financial wellness programs (FWP) improve the perception of financial wellness of employees? 2. What is the level of demand, and perceived value, for employers offering a FWP to employees? 3. What is the level of demand for, and use of, FWPs by employees, particularly by LMI employees? By asking the questions stated above, the objective of this study is to provide evidence-based research using mixed methods to understand the characteristics, conditions of, and motivations for workplace financial wellness program participation for the both the employer and employee. Once understood, these findings will be shared with employers and other relevant stakeholders to inform the design of a pilot study of workplace financial wellness programs to assess employee outcomes. To answer the above research questions, the EFWP project will conduct 20 interviews and 6 intensive case studies with employers offering FWPs, survey a sample of 100 employers offering or interested in offering FWPs, collect administrative data from the 6 case study sites, and implement a module concerning FWPs through the Household Financial Survey of the Refund-to-Savings project to reach several thousand LMI respondents.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.