In 2023, the University’s Lender Center for Social Justice awarded internal grants totaling $320,000 to five faculty-led research projects across campus. The funding is part of a three-year $2.7 million grant from MetLife Foundation to address the racial wealth gap in the U.S.
Two faculty members from the Whitman School, Professor of Accounting Susan Albring and Associate Professor of Accounting Willie Reddic, received $65,000 in grant money for their project, Do Underserved and Underrepresented Communities Pay a Higher Premium in Employer-Sponsored Healthcare Coverage? Patricia Crawford, a doctoral candidate in finance from the University of Rhode Island, is also assisting with the project.
According to Kira Reed, associate professor of management at the Whitman School, senior research associate at the Lender Center and project manager of the interdisciplinary grant, the funding from MetLife Foundation is targeted at exploring the causes, consequences and possible solutions of the racial wealth gap through faculty research, bringing together thought leaders from across the country, hosting events in major cities and supporting postdoctoral scholars doing work in this area. The aim is to use research and information sharing to develop lasting collaborations and initiatives that address the racial wealth gap and offer solutions and real change to wealth disparities. While Albring and Reddic are researching healthcare inequities, a few of the other selected projects are looking into related topics that range from how DEI policies are implemented in grades K-12 to advancing mental and behavioral health through equitable crisis response systems.
“Some of the data the grant recipients have gathered has come directly from the city of Syracuse, which is a microcosm of what we’re seeing in other places,” Reed explains. “Syracuse is so representative of the types of communities we’re looking into, as it has a large refugee population, a highway that has divided our community and one of the highest rates of child poverty in the U.S. for a city of its size. This research is an opportunity to position our own city as a case study and site for helpful intervention strategies that use that information to help others in similar places learn from that and find valuable solutions that can be put in place here and elsewhere.”
Albring and Reddic’s project has made significant progress to date. “It’s been very fruitful over the past five months. We began with a simple concept, and, as we meticulously sift through the details, populate the literature review and unfold the narrative of our story, it becomes evident that the information holds significant importance. It has the potential to instigate positive change for the betterment of society,” says Reddic.
According to Albring, the intent is to minimize this racial wealth gap in health insurance by using data analysis and monitoring to identify and address disparities in healthcare access and outcomes for different racial and ethnic groups; increase cultural competency training for healthcare providers, while promoting diversity and inclusion at the leadership level; and provide information and assistance for low-income individuals and their families to better understand coverage options offered by their employers.
As part of the project, all three have attended several conferences and other events over the past several months to share their research and gather additional information from like-minded academics, experts and students. This past September, they traveled to the annual National Black MBA Association Conference (NBMBAA) in Philadelphia where they presented their research to a group of Whitman students and alumni. In October, they participated in The Lender Center Conversation: Interrogating the Racial Wealth Gap at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., where they engaged in professional development to learn how to best tailor their research, including strategies for creating digestible information for both policymakers and individuals impacted by inequitable healthcare costs. Similar events were also held in New York City and Boston with others planned for spring 2024, including the annual MetLife Foundation-Lender Center for Social Justice Research Symposium held in March on the Syracuse University campus.
Reed has also been working to engage Syracuse University alumni and supporters, including many Whitman graduates who work in areas of finance, banking, housing, healthcare, etc., in order to gain greater insight into inequities being researched and encourage them to be a force for change in their own companies and organizations.
“We acknowledge the possibility of change, and the only way for that change to occur is by possessing the information and emphasizing it, enabling people to see it for themselves,” explains Reddic. “We hope to extend this study to encompass various zip codes. Our aim is to provide valuable insights, enabling individuals to consider factors when evaluating their company’s healthcare services. Moreover, we hope to use this information to educate affected individuals, empowering them to make more informed choices regarding their healthcare. We are enthusiastic about the ongoing work and eagerly anticipate the potential impact it could have.”