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Supply and Demand

How Howard’s Department of Economics is Paving its Own Path

by Aaliyah Butler
Graphic of people standing on a pyramid of books

$10,911,640 and counting. That’s approximately how much the Howard University Department of Economics has earned in grants and awards in 2021 alone.

Prestigious organizations, including the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, National Science Foundation, and many more have supported and trusted the Department of Economics to not only educate a new generation of Black economists, but to leave a mark on the country as a highly ranked, respected and productive department.

How does one department accrue more than $10 million for research?

“Faculty members are encouraged to apply for grants,” says Omari Swinton, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Economics. “Senior faculty members educate junior faculty members on the grant opportunities and application process to give them experience and build confidence in the research they have to offer to their students, the University, and the world. It is a nonstop learning experience on all levels.”

Swinton has been a professor at Howard University since 2007. Swinton teaches introductory, intermediate, and urban economics. His economic research interests include labor economics and education. In addition to overseeing the department’s American Economic Association Summer Training Program (AEASTP), he is currently working on projects that examine the returns of investment in a college education, the obstacles to faculty diversity in higher education, and benefits of attending a historically Black college and university (HBCU).

“The grant application process can range from 70-page proposals to 10-minute interviews and can take up to a year for selection,” says Swinton. “Relieving our students of the worries of academic and research funding allows them to solely focus on their economic studies. ... Our goal is to have 100 percent of our students funded at the graduate level. We are truly grateful for those organizations who support and believe in our vision as well.”

Support for programs, such as the AEA Summer Training Program and Scholarship Program, provides students with intensive training in microeconomics, math, econometrics, and research methods with leading faculty. This development helps students solidify their technical skills in preparation for the rigors of graduate studies. As many as 20 percent of PhDs awarded to minorities in economics over the past 20 years are graduates of the program.

As the only HBCU with a doctorate program in economics, the department strives to advance minorities in the field and to create an intellectual environment that will place the department at the forefront of the nation’s thinking about economics issues on race and equity. In other words, they would like to keep the Mecca’s tradition on defying the odds alive and well.

Grants Received:

National Science Foundation

  • $2,750,000
    • Recipients: Omari H. Swinton, PhD; Gerald Daniels, PhD; Jevay Grooms
    • Contract Term: 5 years
    • Research: AEA Summer Training Program & Scholarship Program
  • $484,679
    • Recipients: William Spriggs, PhD
    • Research: Collaborative Excellence in Research: Skill Acquisition, Technical Change, and Differential Employment and Income Trajectories

Alfred P Sloan Foundation

  • $1,400,000
    • Recipients: Omari H. Swinton, PhD; Andria Smythe, PhD
    • Research: Constructing a program to strengthen student recruitment and research opportunities, faculty development and training, and the department’s infrastructure

Peter G. Peterson Foundation

  • $1,250,000
    • Recipients: AEA Summer Training Program and Scholarship Program, Omari H. Swinton, PhD
    • Research: AEA Summer Training Program and Scholarship Program in collaboration with the Women’s Institute for Science, Equity, and Race

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • $4,500,000
    • Recipients: Haydar Kurban, PhD
    • Research: Housing and economic development research

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

  • $248,961
    • Recipients: Gerald Daniels, PhD
    • Research: Impact of existing policies for forgiveness of student debt on racial wealth gaps

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through sub-award from Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M):

  • $250,000
    • Recipients: Haydar Kurban, PhD
    • Contract Term: 2021-2027
    • Research: Poverty and racial wealth gap

U.S. Social Security Administration sub-award through UW-M Center for Financial Security (CFS)

  • $28,000
    • Recipients: Haydar Kurban, PhD
    • Contract Term: 2021-2022
    • Training: Junior scholars intensive training workshops in May 2022, to be jointly organized by Howard University’s Center on Race and Wealth and UW-M Center for Financial Security.
This story appears in the Winter 2022 issue.

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