The online application currently closed. 2024 application dates will be published in November.

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This program supports research 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 ages 5-25 in the United States. We prioritize studies that aim to reduce inequalities that exist along dimensions of race, ethnicity, economic standing, language minority status, or immigrant origins.

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.


  • “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 (in-person or virtual).

Research Interests

Our research interests center on studies that examine ways 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. Finally, we welcome studies that improve the measurement of inequality in ways that can enhance the work of researchers, practitioners, or policymakers.

We invite studies from a range of disciplines, fields, and methods, and we encourage investigations into various youth-serving systems, including justice, housing, child welfare, mental health, and education.


While we value research on the causes and consequences of inequality, we do not fund this work. Instead, we support research that informs or examines a policy, program, or practice response that can be implemented through an organization, institution, or system.

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 along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, economic standing, language minority status, or immigrant origin status.

  • Avoid treating dimensions of inequality (e.g., race, poverty) as variables without providing conceptual and/or theoretical insight into why and how the identified inequality exists.
  • If proposing research on reducing inequality on a dimension other than race, ethnicity, economic standing, language minority status, or immigrant origins, or on ways in which a basis of inequality intersects with another, you must make a convincing case that this research will improve youth outcomes. For example, we encourage research on reducing inequality for LGBTQ youth, particularly in intersection with at least one of these prioritized dimensions.
  • Be very specific in naming the groups on which the study will focus. Avoid vague terms such as “at-risk youth” or “vulnerable youth.”
  • Draw on extant theoretical and empirical literature to provide a rationale for why the specific programs, policies, or practices under study will equalize outcomes between groups or improve outcomes of a particular group.
  • Identify how the study will investigate this rationale to determine whether it holds up to empirical scrutiny.


Major research grants

  • $100,000 to $600,000 over 2-3 years, including up to 15% indirect costs.
  • 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.

Officers’ research grants

  • $25,000–$50,000 over 1-2 years, including up to 15% indirect costs.
  • Studies may be stand-alone projects or may build off larger projects. The budget should be appropriate for the activities proposed.


In addition to financial support, the Foundation invests significant time and resources in capacity-building for research grantees. We provide opportunities to connect with other scholars, policymakers, and practitioners, and we organize learning communities that allow grantees to discuss challenges, seek advice from peers and experts, and collaborate across projects. To strengthen grantees’ capacities to conduct and implement strong qualitative and mixed-methods work, the Foundation also provides access to a consultation service focused on those methods.


Eligible Organizations

  • The Foundation makes grants only to tax-exempt organizations. We do not make grants to individuals.
  • We encourage proposals from organizations that are under-represented among grantee institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Alaska Native-Serving Institutions, Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions, and Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs).

Eligible Principal Investigators

  • The Foundation defers to the applying organization’s criteria for who is eligible to act as a Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on a grant. In general, we expect that all investigators will have the experience and skills to carry out the proposed work.
  • We strive to support a diverse group of researchers in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, and seniority, and we encourage research projects led by Black or African American, Indigenous, Latinx, and/or Asian or Pacific Islander American researchers.

Eligible Studies

  • Only studies that 1) align with the stated research interests of this program and 2) relate to the outcomes of young people between the ages of 5 and 25 in the United States are eligible for consideration.
  • We do not support non-research activities such as program implementation and operational costs, or make contributions to building funds, fundraising drives, endowment funds, general operating budgets, or scholarships. Applications for ineligible projects are screened out without further review.

Review Criteria

We begin application reviews by looking at the importance of the research questions or hypotheses. Then we evaluate whether the proposed research designs and methods will provide strong empirical evidence on those questions.


For major research grants applications, based on internal review of the letter of inquiry, the Foundation either invites a full proposal for further consideration, or declines the application. We do not accept unsolicited full proposals. Officers’ research grants are awarded on the merit of the letter of inquiry alone.

The letter of inquiry functions as a mini-proposal and is reviewed against the following criteria:

  • The proposed study aligns with this program’s research interests.
    • Specifically, this means that the proposed study aims 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 ages 5-25 in the United States, along dimensions of race, ethnicity, economic standing, language minority status, or immigrant origins, or on another basis for which there is a compelling case.
    • Studies that primarily focus on documenting the causes and consequences of inequality are not a fit with our interests.
  • The letter of inquiry makes clear how findings will inform policies, practices, or programs that can or will be implemented through organizations, institutions, and/or systems.
    • It is not adequate to propose a study that will document inequality and conclude with a general statement that research will be relevant for policy and practice
  • The letter of inquiry reflects a mastery of relevant theory and empirical findings.
  • The letter of inquiry states the theoretical and empirical contributions the study will make to the existing research base.
  • The letter of inquiry discusses how the findings will be relevant to policy or practice.
  • The proposed study employs rigorous methods (quantitative, qualitative, or mixed) that are commensurate to its goals.
  • The study’s design, methods, and analysis plan fit the proposed research questions.
  • The description of the research design makes 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 specific programs, policies, or practices.
  • Plans for case selection, sampling, and measurement clearly state why they are well-suited to address the research questions or hypotheses.
    • For example, samples must be appropriate in size and composition to answer the study’s questions. Qualitative case selection—whether critical, comparative, or otherwise—must also be appropriate to answer the proposed questions.
  • The quantitative and/or qualitative analysis plan demonstrates 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 are clear and compelling.
  • If proposing quantitative methods, the letter of inquiry demonstrates that the study will have adequate statistical power to detect meaningful effects.
  • Where relevant, the letter of inquiry discusses the potential generalizability of findings.
  • The letter of inquiry demonstrates adequate consideration of the gender, ethnic, and cultural appropriateness of concepts, methods, and measures.
  • The proposed methods, time frame, staffing plan, and other resources are realistic.
  • The letter of inquiry assures that data will be successfully collected, describes the team’s prior experience collecting such data, and identifies strategies for maximizing response rates and access to data sources.
  • Prior training and publications demonstrate that the research team has a track record of conducting strong research and communicating it successfully.
    • Be sure to demonstrate that the research team is well-positioned to address the varied tasks demanded by the study’s conceptualization and research design. This might include combining expertise across disciplines or methods.
    • Be specific about the value of each member’s contributions to the team. We strongly discourage teams that comprise many senior investigators for very limited time and effort or otherwise make cursory nods to multi-disciplinary or mixed-role project teams. Instead, clearly justify the unique value of each team member and the specific role each will play in different stages of the project.

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.


For major research grants, 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. If you are invited to submit a full proposal, you will be offered two deadlines to submit it, ranging from approximately six weeks to six months from the time of the invitation.

In general, the full proposal follows a format similar to that of the letter of inquiry, and includes a proposal narrative of about 25 pages, a complete budget and budget justification, and full curriculum vitae or resumes for key investigators and staff. If you are invited to submit a full proposal, we will provide additional detailed instructions on developing the proposal. 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 with content, methodological, and disciplinary expertise in the proposed work.

Following external review, the Foundation’s Senior Program Team reviews promising proposals and offers additional feedback. Applicants who receive positive reviews with critiques that can be addressed within a short time frame are asked to provide written responses to internal and external reviewers’ comments. Applicants’ responses to external reviews are then further reviewed by the Senior Program Team. Finally, the team makes funding recommendations to the Program Committee and the Board of Trustees. Approved awards are made available shortly after Board meetings, which take place in March, June, and October.

For complete instructions on applying for a research grant on reducing inequality, download the 2023 Application Guidelines.