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Peterson Foundation Grant Fuels COVID-19 Research

$1 million research initiative seeks to inform and improve pandemic relief and recovery policies

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We are very excited about the potential for those selected to help us understand the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and design policy solutions.”

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
IPR director and economist

Research stock photo

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation Pandemic Response Policy Research Fund at Northwestern University is funding eight projects to inform and advance future pandemic policy responses, three of which are IPR-led.

The fund, first announced in April with a $1 million grant from the Peterson Foundation, selected eight proposals for funding in May. The nonpartisan foundation promotes fiscal and economic sustainability and increases public awareness of key fiscal challenges.

The IPR-led projects will examine public opinion and institutional trust in Black and Latinx communities, track responses to COVID-19, and explore how the pandemic changed access to early childcare and education in Chicago.

The review committee, comprised of eight IPR and Northwestern faculty, chose 18- to 24-month research projects to develop insights around the pandemic’s societal impact and prepare solutions to future pandemics and other crises.

Finance professor and IPR associate Janice Eberly, who sits on the review committee, stressed the importance of elevating timely and policy-relevant research.

“The projects bring our best thinking and analytics to bear on the pandemic’s incredible challenges for healthcare, economics, and the social safety net—and suggest how policy can make a difference in responding to future crises,” she said.

IPR social policy expert Tabitha Bonilla’s research project with IPR political scientist Laurel Harbridge-Yong and IPR sociologist Beth Redbird examines the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on Black and Latinx communities. They are also assessing levels of trust in the government among Black and Latinx communities to determine if there is a connection between the pandemic, institutional action, and public trust.

IPR development psychologist Terri Sabol and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, IPR director and economist, are investigating how the pandemic affected center-based childcare, as well as how the market for early care is changing as Chicago and other cities expand publicly provided prekindergarten.

The research has important implications for parents’ employment, especially a mother’s employment as having childcare plays a prominent role in supporting their ability to work. Sabol and Schanzenbach propose the research insights will help policymakers understand how to support the childcare sector better.

IPR political scientist James Druckman’s project extends his ongoing research with the COVID States Project, a consortium of researchers from Northwestern, Harvard, Northeastern, and Rutgers that conducts large-scale national surveys of American public opinion on various topics.

Druckman will collect post-pandemic data to continue tracking trust in institutions, information and misperceptions, and economic and health inequalities. He seeks to examine the pandemic’s consequences on democracy and society.

Public health scholar Ronald Ackermann, sociologist Andrew Papachristos, and strategy professor Amanda Starc also sit on the Peterson Fund’s eight-person review committee with Eberly and Schanzenbach. Schanzenbach recused herself from consideration of her proposal. A second round of funding for proposals is set for October.

“We are very excited about the potential for those selected to help us understand the ongoing effects of COVID-19 and design policy solutions,” Schanzenbach said.

Janice Eberly is the James R. and Helen D. Russell Professor of Finance and IPR associate. Tabitha Bonilla is assistant professor of human development and social policy. Laurel Harbridge-Yong is associate professor of political science. Beth Redbird is assistant professor of sociology. Terri Sabol is assistant professor of human development and social policy. Diane Schanzenbach is the Margaret Walker Alexander Professor and IPR director. James Druckman is the Payson S. Wild Professor of Political Science and IPR associate director. Ronald Ackermann is professor of medicine and medical social sciences. Andrew Papachristos is professor of sociology. Amanda Starc is associate professor of strategy. All are IPR faculty members.

Published: July 26, 2021.