The online application is now closed. The next deadline for letters of inquiry is TBD.


The Foundation’s mission is to support research to improve the lives of young people ages 5-25 in the United States. One way that we pursue this mission is by investing in high-quality field-initiated studies on reducing inequality in youth outcomes.

Our focus on reducing inequality grew out of our view that research can do more than help us understand the problem of inequality—it can generate effective responses. We believe that it is time to build stronger bodies of knowledge on how to reduce inequality in the United States and to move beyond the mounting research evidence about the scope, causes, and consequences of inequality.

Toward this end, we seek studies that aim to build, test, or increase understanding of programs, policies, or practices to reduce inequality in the academic, social, behavioral, or economic outcomes of young people. We prioritize studies about reducing inequality on the basis of race, ethnicity, economic standing, language minority status, or immigrant origins.


  • “Programs” are coordinated sets of activities designed to achieve specific aims in youth development.
  • “Policies” are broader initiatives intended to promote success through the allocation of resources or regulation of activities. Policies may be located at the federal, state, local, or organizational level.
  • “Practices” consist of the materials and activities through which youth development is enabled (e.g., coaching, mentoring, parenting, peer interactions, teaching). Practices involve direct interaction with youth (though not necessarily in person, as technology affords direct interaction from anywhere).

Proposals for studies are evaluated based on their fit with our interests in reducing inequality; the strength and feasibility of their designs, methods, and analyses; their potential to inform change; and their contribution to theory and empirical evidence.

The Foundation does not have a preference for a particular research design or method. We begin application reviews by looking at the research questions or hypotheses. Then we evaluate whether the proposed research designs and methods will provide empirical evidence on those questions. We support studies from a range of disciplines, fields, and methodologies, and we encourage investigations into various systems, including justice, housing, child welfare, mental health, and education. The most competitive proposals often incorporate data from multiple sources and often involve multi-disciplinary teams.

Across all of our programs, we strive to support a diverse group of researchers in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and seniority, and we encourage research projects led by African American, Latinx, Native American, and Asian Pacific American researchers.

Proposing a Study

Research grants on reducing inequality should aim to build, test, or increase understanding of programs, policies, or practices to reduce inequality in youth outcomes.

We welcome descriptive studies that clarify mechanisms for reducing inequality or elucidate how or why a specific program, policy, or practice operates to reduce inequality. We also welcome intervention studies that examine attempts to reduce inequality. In addition, we seek studies that improve the measurement of inequality in ways that can enhance the work of researchers, practitioners, or policymakers. The common thread across all of this work, however, is a distinct and explicit focus on reducing inequality—one that goes beyond describing the causes or consequences of unequal outcomes and, instead, identifies leverage points for reducing inequality.

Applications for research grants on reducing inequality must:

We are especially interested in supporting research to reduce inequality in academic, social, behavioral, or economic outcomes.

We are especially interested in research to reduce inequality on the basis of race, ethnicity, economic standing, language minority status, or immigrant origin status. Proposals for research on reducing inequality on a basis not listed here, or on ways in which a basis of inequality intersects with another, must make a compelling case that this research will improve youth outcomes. Note that it is inadequate to refer to inequality through vague, umbrella terms (e.g., “at-risk youth”) or to simply treat bases of inequality (e.g., race, poverty) as variables without providing conceptual insight into how such characteristics serve as bases for inequality.

We encourage applicants to draw on extant theoretical and empirical literature to provide a rationale for why the programs, policies, or practices under study will equalize outcomes between groups or improve outcomes of the disadvantaged group. Likewise, applicants must identify how these ideas will be assessed in the study.

The challenge of shifting one’s lens from understanding inequality to reducing inequality requires high quality, rigorous research and creative thinking. To learn more, we encourage you to browse recent grants, blog posts, papers, and other resources on our website.


Major research grants

Major research grants on reducing inequality typically range between $100,000 and $600,000 and cover two to three years of support.

Projects involving secondary data analysis are at the lower end of the budget range, whereas projects involving new data collection and sample recruitment can be at the higher end. Proposals to launch experiments in which settings (e.g., classrooms, schools, youth programs) are randomly assigned to conditions sometimes have higher awards.

In addition to financial support, the Foundation invests significant time and resources in capacity-building for research grantees. We provide opportunities for connections with other scholars, policymakers, and practitioners, and we organize learning communities for grantees in each focus area. Such meetings allow grantees to discuss challenges, seek advice from peers and colleagues, and collaborate across projects. To strengthen our grantees’ capacities to conduct and implement strong qualitative and mixed-methods work, the Foundation provides access to a consultation service.

Officers’ research grants

Officers’ research grants on reducing inequality are a separate funding mechanism for smaller projects with budgets ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. Some are stand-alone projects; others build off larger projects. The budget should be appropriate for the activities proposed. Projects involving secondary data analysis are typically at the lower end of the budget range, whereas projects involving new data collection and sample recruitment can be at the higher end.

Submissions for the Officers’ research grants will be accepted for the January and August deadlines. Letters of inquiry for the Officer’s research grants will not be accepted for the May deadline.

Similar to the major grants program, we encourage research projects led by African American, Latinx, Native American, and Asian Pacific American researchers. Early career scholars are also encouraged to apply for these grants as a way to build their research programs.


Eligible Organizations

Grants are made to organizations, not individuals. Grants are limited, without exception, to tax-exempt organizations. A copy of the Internal Revenue Service tax-exempt status determination letter is required from each applying organization. We do not support or make contributions to building funds, fundraising drives, endowment funds, general operating budgets, or scholarships.

Eligible Principal Investigators

Please consult with your institution about their eligibility criteria regarding who can act as Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-Principal Investigator on a grant.

Selection Criteria

All letters of inquiry for research grants on reducing inequality—for both major grants and Officer’s grants—will be reviewed internally. The letter of inquiry functions as a mini-proposal, and should meet the selection criteria detailed below:

Proposals for research on reducing inequality should:

  • Identify a specific inequality in youth outcomes, and show that the outcomes are currently unequal by engaging with the extant literature on the causes and consequences of inequality.
  • Make a compelling case for the basis of inequality the study will address.
  • Articulate how findings from your research will help build, test, or increase understanding of a specific program, policy, or practice to reduce the specific inequality that you have identified.
  • Proposals must reflect a mastery of relevant theory and empirical findings, and clearly state the theoretical and empirical contributions they will make to the existing research base.
  • Projects may focus on either generating or testing theory, depending on the state of knowledge about a topic.
  • Although we do not expect that any one project will or should impact policy or practice on its own, all proposals should discuss how the findings will be relevant to policy or practice.
  • Projects should employ rigorous methods that are commensurate with the proposal’s goals. The Foundation welcomes quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods projects.
  • The study’s design, methods, and analysis plan should fit the research questions. Further, the description of the research design should make clear how the empirical work will test, refine, or elaborate specific theoretical notions. Quantitative analyses might emphasize hypotheses and plans for testing them, while qualitative analyses might elaborate on how the research will illuminate processes underlying programs, policies, or practices.
  • Plans for case selection, sampling, and measurement should clearly state why they are well-suited to address the research questions or hypotheses. For example, samples should be appropriate in size and composition to answer the study’s questions. Qualitative case selection—whether critical, comparative, or otherwise—should also be appropriate to answer the proposed questions.
  • The quantitative and/or qualitative analysis plan should demonstrate awareness of the strengths and limits of the specific analytic techniques and how they will be applied in the current case.
  • If proposing mixed methods, plans for integrating the methods and data should be clear and compelling.
  • Where relevant, attention should be paid to the generalizability of findings.
  • Quantitative studies should describe the statistical power to detect meaningful effects.
  • The proposal must demonstrate adequate consideration of the gender, ethnic, and cultural appropriateness of concepts, methods, and measures.
  • The methods, time frame, staffing plan, and other resources must be realistic.
  • Prior training and publications should demonstrate that the applicant has a track record of conducting strong research and communicating it successfully.

Where appropriate, we value projects that:

  • harness the learning potential of mixed methods and interdisciplinary work;
  • involve practitioners or policymakers in meaningful ways to shape the research questions, interpret preliminary and final results, and communicate their implications for policy and practice;
  • combine senior and junior staff in ways that facilitate mentoring of junior staff;
  • are led by members of racial or ethnic groups underrepresented in academic fields;
  • generate data useful to other researchers and make such data available for public use; and
  • demonstrate significant creativity and the potential to advance the field by, for example, introducing new research paradigms or extending existing measures.

Application Review Process

Major research grants

Letters of inquiry are reviewed internally by staff with social science expertise. Given the breadth of work presented in LOIs, internal reviewers may lack deep knowledge of an applicant’s specific area of work, so applications should be written with this in mind. On occasion, internal reviewers will request more information from applicants or solicit expert opinions in order to more adequately assess a project.

After internal review of a letter of inquiry, the Foundation will decide whether to decline the LOI or invite a full proposal for further consideration. The investigator will be notified of this decision within eight weeks of the LOI deadline. In recent years, about 15% of the letters received for major grants have been invited to submit a full proposal. Typically, applicants are offered two deadlines for full proposals, ranging from approximately six weeks to six months from the time of the invitation. We do not accept unsolicited full proposals.

The full proposal follows a format similar to that of the letter of inquiry, and includes a proposal narrative of about 25 pages, a budget and budget justification, and full curriculum vitae or resumes for key staff and investigators. (Institutional Review Board Approval is not required at the time of the proposal’s submission but is required before issuing grant funds.) Full proposals are reviewed using a scientific peer review process involving two or more external reviewers. The Foundation chooses reviewers with content, methodological, and disciplinary expertise in the proposed work.

The Foundation’s Senior Program Team then reviews promising proposals and offers additional feedback.

Applicants who receive positive reviews with critiques that can be addressed within a short time frame are given an opportunity to provide written responses to reviewers’ comments. Full proposals, external reviews, and applicants’ responses to external reviews are then further reviewed by the Senior Program Team. The Team makes funding recommendations to the Program Committee and Board of Trustees. Approved awards are made available shortly after Board meetings, which occur in late March, June, and October. In recent years about 25% have been recommended for funding.

The review process for a successful application, beginning with the submission of a letter of inquiry and ending with approval by our Board of Trustees, is 10 to 15 months.

Officers’ research grants

Applications for Officers’ research grants are accepted two times per year and share the same deadlines in January and August as the larger research grants program. Officers’ research grants are awarded on the merit of the letter of inquiry alone and the review process is usually eight weeks from the corresponding deadline. Awards are made available after internal review. Recently about 8-10% of the letters of inquiry for an Officers’ research grant have been approved for funding.

Investigators will receive an email notification of staff’s decision within eight weeks of the LOI submission date.