Generating Evidence to Advance Equity | The AIR Equity Initiative

AIR has a long tradition of generating evidence to understand and address social and economic inequities. Yet critical gaps remain in the evidence base. The AIR Equity Initiative will continue to identify and invest in research that centers on equity and holds promise for informing ways to improve opportunities and outcomes, and in ideas or approaches that receive little attention or funding from others. As this work moves forward, funding will more fully support the time, space, and technical support needed for groups that are diverse in expertise, experiences, and perspectives to critically review existing evidence, articulate learning agendas and project contours for future work, and engagement in the conduct of the work.

Landscape Analyses

AIR self-funded two landscape analyses to identify entry points for further work on segregation and workforce development.

Segregation. Systematic segregation by race and income limit opportunities in education, health, housing, and employment. AIR experts reviewed evidence about strategies to promote mobility through moves to opportunity, housing policies, and community investments. Their review reveled that interventions and policies tend to fall into two categories: (1) Helping people relocate (e.g. Moving to Opportunity, Housing Choice Vouchers), and (2) Helping promote investment in highly segregated communities (e.g., Opportunity Zones, land banks).

Programs that helped people relocate demonstrated modest positive evidence for effects on younger children and fewer effects on adults. Programs that promote investment in communities were primarily described in case reports, leaving important opportunities to conduct mixed methods studies in the future. Increasingly, both types of interventions are paired with counseling or wraparound support services (e.g., Family Self-Sufficiency Program, Choice Neighborhoods, Creating Moves to Opportunity).

Workforce Development and Economic Mobility. A wide range of interventions seek to address gaps in the workforce that lead to issues of equity, prosperity, and economic mobility for all. AIR experts reviewed evidence on workforce development programs and interventions and their promise for improving economic mobility. These reviews focused on four key areas, (1) future-ready workforce, (2) promise youth, (3) college readiness and success, and (4) low-skills adults.

Based on both large-scale trials and evaluations of local efforts, there is evidence that some programs promote success in school and work in the short-term, although effectiveness varies depending on the focus and supports offered. Programs are often costly, complex, and isolated from other services. Further study is needed to streamline and integrate programs with the broader system to enable more enduring, less costly gains. The landscape analyses also revealed that advantaged students, such as those who are full-time and demonstrate skill readiness, are more likely to be granted access and benefit from workforce development programs.

COVID-19 Response

AIR leveraged its funds and expertise in education and healthcare to document and inform responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. With input from providers in the field, AIR designed rapid research projects to help community members, decision-makers, and organizations understand the complexities of this crisis. Four evidence-building studies about COVID-19 include: