Since 1934, the Sloan Foundation has challenged economists to help everyone understand the world better and live better lives. Our economics program supports basic research with applications that promote equity, protect consumers, strengthen institutions, incentivize innovation, test technologies, and improve the value of scientific research. We support academic risk-takers and entrepreneurs whose insights can empower communities, states, and countries to manage adversity and build better futures.
Today, the world faces significant challenges and substantial opportunities that call for rethinking basic assumptions about how the private and public sectors advance their respective missions. Vast new data about people’s preferences and activities provide the potential for incredible discoveries about human behavior, for example, while also posing significant new threats to personal privacy and economic security.
Sloan’s Economics Program has funded research that helps meet such challenges. We seek to empower more researchers and more institutions who can accelerate progress and strengthen inclusive prosperity.
- Policy relevant, but neither “policy research” nor advocacy;
- Motivated by nonideological questions rather than preconceived answers;
- Engaged with fundamental puzzles, but using fresh approaches;
- Unbiased, statistically sound, careful about causality, and replicable;
- Careful about baselines, controls, confounding variables, and econometrics;
- Savvy about markets, institutions, regulation, transaction costs, behavioral biases, etc.;
- Contributors to research infrastructure, datasets, or resources for general use;
- Generators of highly cited and catalytic results in high-quality journals; and
- Ultimately concerned with the quality of life in the United States.
Global Competitiveness and Industrial Strategy: The Chips + Science Bill passed with bi-partisan support to uphold U.S. leadership in critical sectors of the economy. Congress wants special attention given to microprocessor chips, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, and the like. But what about independent scholarly evidence about priorities and progress? NSF, Commerce, and other agencies are getting billions and have asked for academic research to help them spend it wisely. Sloan, too, is funding initiatives to help get that work off the ground.
Mesoeconomics and Regional Economic Development: Many salient problems now concern neither the microeconomics of buying and selling nor the macroeconomics of fiscal and monetary policy. Supply chains can have as much to do with inflation as the Federal Reserve, for example. And designing interventions to promote equitable economic growth in regions left behind by the tech boom is an increasingly urgent challenge for the United States and throughout the world. Scholarly research needs to address innovation, prosperity, opportunity, and equity as related. The term “mesoeconomics” can encompass all of this.
Public Works, Transportation, and Social Capital: The United States has not been very good at construction projects. The Bipartisan Instructure Bill calls for $1.2 trillion in spending. Governments pay for bridges and highways not only because of high capital costs, strong externalities, and the potential for monopolies, but also because technical and other decisions made typically affect many people for many years. The public and private sectors must cooperate on getting anything done, as is often the case when providing public goods. This brings up serious research questions about procurement, management, regulation, and cost-benefit analysis.
Re-Engineering Social Research Surveys: The infamous “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline was the result of sample bias: surveys were conducted by calling random telephone numbers, but at the time, wealthier households were more likely to have phones and to vote Republican. No matter how big or small the data, skewed and unrepresentative samples can be misleading or even dangerous—especially when used to train artificial intelligence software. Census officials, public pollsters, and social scientists all know how hard this is. Hints about promising new techniques are scattered in papers about statistical frames and weightings, about “adaptive sampling” based on multi-arm bandit methods, or about the behavioral economics of trying to boost response rates. There has to be a better way.
Economics of Caregiving: How a nation or state treats its most vulnerable—including infants, schoolchildren, the disabled, and the elderly, for example—may say as much about whether that society is truly making progress as economic statistics like GDP growth. Despite recent efforts, there are no accepted measures of how caregiving effects the economy generally, nor GDP in particular. This may be related to the fact that, traditionally, such responsibilities were the domain of women who were mostly unpaid. The pandemic has only underscored how caregiving systems lack resilience, affordability, or even just staff, and how that lack holds people back from achieving their dreams. Research questions concern: measurement and data collection; recruitment, retention, and careers; comparative studies with other countries; as well as modeling of current vs. alternative institutional arrangements.
Economic Analysis of Science and Technology: Research on the productivity of the scientific enterprise has tremendous potential to accelerate economic progress and, in turn, improve the quality of human life. Such work, also known as the Economics of Science, Science of Science, Research on Research, or Metascience, is a priority for Sloan—especially experiments or other hypothesis tests that can improve the effectiveness of private or public funders of research.
Strengthening the Economics Profession:
- Equity and Economics, including programs to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion among economists, evaluations to assess and improve such interventions, research about equity in the economy, and methods of disaggregating data about specific subpopulations.
- Empirical Economics Research Enablers, including administrative data, privacy guarantees when studying sensitive data, mathematical search, data linkage, reproducibility, data infrastructure, and methodologies such as graphical causal inference.
- Professional Infrastructure, including everything from small dissertation prizes to major meetings, and from support for endangered scholars to financing for the dissemination of research results.
What we get wrong about the "care economy"
University of Kansas
KU researcher leading project to quantify care economy
Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is ensuring that the benefits of innovation extend to everyone
The New York Times
To Rein In Big Tech, Europe Looked Beyond Lawsuits. Will the U.S. Follow?
Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
Wall Street Journal
Stagnant Scientific Productivity Holding Back Growth