Venture Funding

IAI Research Fund for FAS/SEAS Faculty

Deadline: March 8, 2022
Award Amount: up to $75,000
Eligible Applicants: FAS/SEAS ladder faculty (assistant, associate, or full) as well as Professors in Residence and Professors of the Practice; also, faculty from other Harvard schools who hold more than a 0 FTE appointment in FAS/SEAS. Faculty from other Harvard schools without a greater-than-zero FAS/SEAS appointment are welcome to participate as collaborators on funded projects.
Conditions: Successful applicants will be expected to give a short presentation of the funded project at a symposium at the end of the grant year, and submit a short description of project results. Funds will be available July 1st, and the symposium will take place in the fall of the following year (approximately 15 months from the award date).
Apply: See below.


The goal of the IAI Research Fund is to support new research that will advance our understanding of the causes and consequences of inequality, including its implications for a range of outcomes from economic growth and political stability to crime, public health, family wellbeing, and social trust; or that will test interventions or result in the development and dissemination of data, educational resources and/or policy guides. This call invites innovative ideas from the full range of academic disciplines with a particular emphasis on research that engages with the core themes of the FAS Inequality in America Initiative: Work, Family and Opportunity; Mobility and Migration; Governance, Citizenship and Social Justice; Science, Technology, Education and Health; American Inequality, Globally.

The Inequality in America Initiative Research Fund will provide funding in the following categories:

  • Seed funding, to encourage investigators to pursue exciting new research directions that might not yet be ready to compete in traditional funding programs.
  • Bridge funding, to allow investigators to continue work on previously funded research that does not currently have external funding. Investigators who apply in this category must demonstrate that efforts have been made or will be made to obtain external funding.

Please apply only if your funding needs fit into one of these categories. Project budgets of up to $75,000 may be requested, though it should be noted that funded proposals may receive below the award ceiling.

The IAI Research Fund is especially interested in supporting projects that involve any of the following: interdisciplinary collaboration among departments or Harvard schools; new and early-career investigators; research opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students.

Application and Review Process

Applications must contain all of the following components, and should be submitted by email to Proposals will be read and evaluated by a multidisciplinary committee that includes faculty with expertise in the study of inequality. Please ensure that your proposal is accessible to someone outside of your discipline.

  1. Contact information
    1. Name
    2. Title
    3. Department
    4. Email address
  2. Project description (1 page) that is accessible to those outside your discipline. The project description should include:
    1. The question or problem, and why it is important.
    2. The approach to be taken.
    3. The potential impact of proposed work.
  3. A 1- to 3-sentence synopsis of the project (for public dissemination if awarded).
  4. One paragraph explaining why this funding source is essential to the launch or success of the proposed project.
  5. Abridged CV or biosketch (2 pages).
  6. A list of all current or pending sources of support (including other internal funding), and a description of what efforts have been made, or will be made, to obtain external funding for the proposed project.
  7. Budget and budget justification (1 page). Budgets should provide enough information to convey the alignment of costs with the project. Faculty are encouraged to work closely with their grants administrator when including personnel and fringe benefits. Faculty in departments without a designated grant administrator may contact FAS Research Administration Services for assistance.
    • Eligible expenses may include but are not limited to personnel (e.g. postdocs, graduate students, undergraduate students, consultants, translators); fringe benefits; domestic and international travel; equipment/software user fees; archive fees; data acquisition fees; training to acquire a new skill or area of expertise that will enable the proposed project.
    • The following expenses are not eligible for funding: overhead, faculty salary, graduate student tuition, educational/course use, equipment, space.


If you have questions about the IAI Competitive Research Fund, please contact Jennifer Shephard (

Jason Beckfield, Professor of Sociology
Visualizing the Social and Historical Causes of Immigration to the United States
This web-based project aims to visually represent the ways in which the United States’ diplomatic, military, and economic history has conditioned and even determined the history of migration from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia to the United States. This project will produce a visual tool for scholars, activists, organizers, educators, students, and American citizens, more broadly, to learn about and combat myths and stereotypes about the reasons people come to the US. By reconsidering the way we teach the history of immigration, this project hopes to contextualize the experiences of migrants and refugees as well as encourage concrete strategies to critique the exploitative intertwinement of US economic and military interests.

Benjamin Enke, Assistant Professor of Economics
The Gradient of Americans’ Prosociality
This project uses a large-scale survey to study how Americans' prosociality varies as subjective social distance increases. It is conceivable that people exhibit large heterogeneity in the extent to which they favor various in-groups, and that these basic preferences have direct implications for political attitudes regarding redistribution, social mobility, and public goods provision. The project studies these issues empirically by mapping the distribution of prosociality towards a large number of groups in a representative sample of Americans.

Ryan Enos, Professor of Government
Long-Term Effects of Racial Diversity: Evidence from Linked Census and Voter File Data
We can look at individuals who are now in their late 70's or older and, using newly available data, know exactly what their residential life looked like in the 1940's. We can even know if they had a neighbor of a different race who was around the same age. Using their current address from the contemporary files we can then contact these people for a survey and understand how their context from the 1940's affects their lives, behavior, and attitudes now.

Elizabeth Hinton, Assistant Professor of History
Incarcerated Scholars Project: Norfolk and Framingham Prisons
Mass incarceration is inextricably linked to mass undereducation. This project will address the magnitude of mass incarceration with the tools best fitted to change it: education and research in the hands of those under criminal justice supervision. Driven by the questions of incarcerated students (who will receive college credit for participating in the research seminar), a team of graduate students supervised by a faculty member and postdoctoral advisor will collect sources and archival materials to produce scholarly historical research on the history of Massachusetts prisons for public presentation and academic publication. This project has the potential to transform institutions of higher education such as Harvard to better realize their stated goals of diversity, inclusion, and belonging by creating a collective learning environment with the most marginalized and historically undereducated group in the United States today.

Lorgia Garcia-Pena, Roy G. Clouse Associate Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures and of History and Literature
Archives of Justice: Immigrant Stories of Postcoloniality and Belonging in the Diaspora

Archives of Justice is a method of decolonial research that places individual human stories of immigrant subjects within recognizable historical events (wars, colonialisms, social movements) and social processes (LGBTQ, Women’s rights, migration, black rights) to propose an alternative method of historicizing that highlights the lives, contributions and experiences of people often left outside of traditional archives and academic institutions. The main focus of our research project is Immigration. Our archive strives to link immigrant narratives, their experiences in the diaspora to larger historical process in an effort to connect colonialism migration and citizenship through their lives and through the locations/historical moments that shaped them.

Walter Johnson, Winthrop Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies
Commonwealth Project St. Louis

At the most general level, the Project seeks to model a new way for universities to engage with social problems and frontline actors by fostering genuine partnerships and supporting community-led initiatives. The intellectual and social mission of the Commonwealth Project is to be thoroughly mutual: to bring frontline knowledge into the university and university know-how into the community. The project has begun its work in St. Louis by partnering with the Equal Housing Opportunity Council, the National Resource Defense Council, Williams College and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville to document and address the toxic living conditions in Centreville, Illinois (East St. Louis Metro). Funded by the IAI, via a grant from the Ford Foundation, as well as by Harvard's Mindich program for community engaged research, four Harvard undergraduates and one graduate student were in St. Louis this summer doing historical research and social mapping, as well as beginning work on several oral and public history projects, documenting the city’s rich African American history and finding creative ways to memorialize and communicate it. A national conference of academics, artists, and activists is planned for spring or summer 2020.

Michele Lamont, Robert I. Goldman Professor of European Studies and Professor of Sociology and of African and African American Studies
What we Value: Redefining Worth in the New Gilded Age
This book (to be published by Simon and Schuster in spring 2023) argues that, as fewer in the US feel they are living the American dream, we need to understand how to foster scripts of the self that are less centered on material success and self-reliance, as well as new narratives of hope appealing to younger generations -- a group now experiencing a major mental health crisis across classes. Based on interviews with “agents of change” (comedians, culture creatives, journalists, advocates, activists, etc.) and American college students, I analyze the place of inclusion and “ordinary universalism” in these new narratives of hope, and how these themes are diffused in the hybrid public sphere through “recognition chains.” I also propose different narrative-based approaches to reduce stigma and foster solidarity. The theoretical significance of this study is to improve our understanding of recognition as a central dimension of inequality that influences the distribution of resources. Its social significance is to illuminate cultural conditions feeding the current crisis of American society, propose solutions, and generate a public conversation around the latter. (Updated description posted in March 2022)

Nathan Nunn, Frederic E. Abbe Professor of Economics
Examining the Lasting Consequences of the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921

Within the United States, inequality is closely tied to race and a history of race relations. We intend to study whether racial inequality in the United States has part of its roots in one of the largest historical race riots in the nation's history, the Tulsa Massacre of 1921. Our quantitative estimates will test whether there were long-term economic, social, and psychological consequences of the 1921 Massacre. Our analysis will examine these issues using detailed linked micro-census data that allows us to study the consequences for individuals and their descendants for decades after the massacre. The funding allows us to hire a research assistant who can help with the analysis of the micro Census data that are crucial for the analysis. The funding will also enable primary research in the archives in Tulsa, which will provide additional fine-grained data, that can be used to estimate the effects of the massacre at the micro-level. (Updated description posted in March 2022)

Stefanie Stantcheva, Professor of Economics
Immigrants, Economic Mobility, and Support for Redistribution

Despite the increase in wealth and income inequality in the United States over the past decades, support for redistribution remains much lower than in other industrialized countries. A potential explanation for this is a persistent belief in the “American Dream”, which is a belief in high social mobility and that anyone can achieve economic success if they work hard enough. This study seeks to better understand the origins of these beliefs and whether they lie in America's history of immigrant settlement. The core of the project is the creation of a new nationally representative survey dataset measuring individuals’ perceptions of mobility, preferences for redistribution policy, and ancestry, across all counties in the United States.

MB headshotMahzarin Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics in the Department of Psychology
Mapping Linguistic Traces of Attitudes and Beliefs: Examinations Across Human Development and History

This project addresses the fundamental question of whether, and how, our attitudes and beliefs about social groups change across history and across stages of human development, from childhood to adulthood; this research provides a novel perspective on these questions by integrating methodological advances from computer science and natural language processing (NLP) with theoretical frameworks from psychology. Social stereotypes based on group memberships (e.g., race, gender) exert far-reaching adverse impacts on social justice and equality, ranging from gender gaps in academic achievement and persistence to racial disparities in police use of lethal force. It is therefore crucial to understand what inputs (e.g., peers, parents, or media) are most consequential in the emergence of such stereotypes early in life, as well as what events or experiences are most consequential in changing such stereotypes across history.


CCE headshotChristina Ciocca Eller, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Studies
Life Goes On After Dropout: Examining the Early Life Outcomes of Those with Some College, No Degree

This project examines the early life outcomes, both social and economic, of those who exit bachelor’s degree (BA)-granting educational programs without a degree. It particularly analyzes heterogeneity of experiences by race, income, and gender among those with “some BA-granting college” and in comparison to those who never have entered a BA-granting college, emphasizing outcomes pertaining to the labor market, family formation, and community participation. In taking the category of “some BA-granting college” as its focus, this project reframes conversations surrounding “college dropouts” to foreground the potential benefits of BA-granting college attendance—even without degree completion—for groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education.

headshot of Jill LeporeJill Lepore, David Woods Kemper '41 Professor of American History
The Amendments: Revising and Re-imagining the Constitution of the United States

I propose to write a history of attempts to amend the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution has been rewritten three times: in 1791, with the ratification of the Bill of Rights; after the Civil War, with the ratification of the Reconstruction Amendments; and during the Progressive Era. It has since become almost impossible to amend the Constitution and yet, without amendment, the Constitution entrenches inequality. Much of American political history is a history of attempts to entrench–and to fight against the entrenchment of–inequalities that have either been written into the U.S. Constitution or inserted into it by means of constitutional interpretation. This project, which falls within the Governance, Citizenship, and Social Justice research cluster of the Inequality in American Initiative, aims to widen the history of constitutional amendment–looking at proposals made by disenfranchised groups–in order to broaden our understanding of the possibilities for constitutional change.

headshot of Mary WatersMary C. Waters, John L. Loeb Professor of Sociology
Resilience in Survivors of Hurricane Katrina (RISK)

The Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) Project is a longitudinal study of 1,019 low-income African American mothers from New Orleans who were interviewed about their health, socioeconomic status and political attitudes before and after Hurricane Katrina. It is a very rare study of a natural disaster because it has extensive pre-disaster data, it has followed survivors for 15 years wherever they relocated, it combines qualitative, quantitative and biomarker data, and it features a highly vulnerable group. The study explores factors that promote resilience and heighten vulnerability after disasters and finds lasting mental and physical health effects and mobility into lower poverty and less segregated neighborhoods over time. Those who stayed in New Orleans saw their neighborhoods change from gentrification and those who relocated ended up in much less segregated and less poor neighborhoods. However they also experienced racism and discrimination in their new neighborhoods. This research addresses questions of whether neighborhoods help to lessen inequality (we have examined the effects of neighborhoods on income using Chetty’s neighborhood opportunity data and find a strong effect), and it also addresses questions of internal mobility within the US and inequality, as well as race and inequality. Finally, we address questions of climate change and the likely disproportionate effects on poor Americans.