BFI NewsSep 21, 2023

BFI Launches New Socioeconomic Inequalities Initiative

The Becker Friedman Institute for Economics (BFI) is launching the Socioeconomic Inequalities Initiative to support and promote inquiry that will enhance fundamental knowledge of inequalities across socioeconomic groups. The Socioeconomic Inequalities Initiative will support the research of UChicago scholars who are pushing the boundaries of inequality research across social groups and encourage innovation in economic research on this topic, including the incorporation of insights from other fields where appropriate.

Oeindrila Dube, the Philip K. Pearson Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy, and Damon Jones, Associate Professor at the Harris School of Public Policy, will lead the new initiative, which will replace and expand the BFI Initiative for the Study of Gender in the Economy.

“It is an honor to serve as an inaugural co-director of the BFI Socioeconomics Inequalities Initiative,” said Dube. “Under the auspices of the Initiative for the Study of Gender in the Economy, we began the work of both supporting research in progress and fostering new research to study the roots and effects of inequality across groups. I’m thrilled to continue this work and to expand our scope in exciting directions.”

Pervasive in our economy are inequalities across groups: for example by gender, race, ethnicity, religion or creed, and class. Understanding the origins of these inequalities, as well as how they manifest themselves across time and space, is crucial to developing effective policies that can close gaps and ensure that all citizens have equal opportunities to succeed.

“The Socioeconomics Inequalities Initiative will serve as a hub of knowledge and resources for members of the Chicago economics community studying these topics,” said Jones. “In addition to our ambitious research goals, our hope is to promote collaboration, exchange ideas, and build community around the important and novel research University of Chicago economists are conducting in these areas.”

By funding original research, nurturing innovative young scholars, and building a community of researchers in this field, the Becker Friedman Institute will stimulate leading research on socioeconomic inequalities. The program will accept applications for research support, available to scholars in economics and public policy, and will also offer opportunities for researchers to visit the Becker Friedman Institute to collaborate and refine their work.

“BFI is excited to launch this initiative that will foster research at UChicago on the causes, consequences, and solutions to the ever-present disparities that undermine societies around the world,” said Michael Greenstone, the Milton Friedman Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and Director of BFI. “We couldn’t be more pleased to have Oeindrila Dube and Damon Jones, two of the foremost scholars in this area today, lead this initiative.”

Today’s historically high inequality has consequences for a broad range of spheres, including for political institutions, the criminal justice system, and education. Given their broad reach, it is important to understand how and where inequalities persist, where they persist, and also why some have faded over time. In addition, it is important to take into account how and why the social groups over which these inequalities exist are themselves constructed and determined, and how that process varies across time, regions, and countries.

To address these important issues, initiative scholars will employ new and innovative sources of data that will lend fresh insight to long-term problems and, and provide nuanced analysis that can help inform policy making.

“As stewards of economic research, we have a profound responsibility to address the pressing issues in our society,” said Erik Hurst, the Frank P. and Marianne R. Diassi Distinguished Service Professor of Economics at Chicago Booth and Deputy Director of BFI. “Economics here at The University of Chicago has a key role to play in not only uncovering the roots of disparity, but also in cultivating solutions that empower all members of society.”

Visit the initiative page to learn more about the Socioeconomic Inequality Initiative and see the full roster of affiliated faculty members.