Seed Funding


The Yankelovich Center provides catalytic funding for multidisciplinary research projects that show promise of significant national impact in addressing America's most pressing social problems.

Please note we are currently not accepting applications

Call for proposals 2016-17

Currently the Center is focusing on how to increase upward mobility in the United States. Examples of research topics that reflect this focus include (but aren't limited to):

  • Expanding access to high-quality early childhood education or K-12 education
  • Enhancing college enrollment or completion among students from less-advantaged backgrounds
  • Improving school-to-work transitions
  • Developing "full service" programs in communities with large populations of disadvantaged families
  • Reducing prison incarceration rates
  • Increasing employment rates or employment persistence
  • Raising pay levels in low-end jobs
  • Improving colleges' effectiveness at upgrading skills for middle- and lower-income jobs

Who can apply
Projects can have a single or multiple principal investigators from UC San Diego and may also include researchers at other universities or research institutions.

Criteria on which proposals will be judged

1. Fit with the Center's substantive focus on upward mobility.

2. Focus on solutions. Projects should aim to discover or verify one or more feasible solutions that promise to make a significant contribution to increasing upward mobility.

3. Quality of the proposed research, especially the appropriateness of the design and methods to be used.

4. Proposals should explicitly address how the solution(s) they examine could be brought to national scale.

5. We prefer, but don't require, that projects cross disciplinary boundaries.

6. Our grants are intended to fund the initial stages of potentially larger projects with significant prospects for raising extramural funding, including formulating promising hypotheses and gathering preliminary evidence on their potential for making a major impact. Possible funding sources and research capabilities for next steps should be clearly specified in the proposal.

7. Please write clearly and simply, and be as concise as possible.

Maximum funding amount
$25,000

Proposal length
Proposals should be no more than 8 pages single-spaced, not counting the budget and any appendixes.

Submission deadline
Please note we are currently not accepting applications.

Selection committee
Yankelovich Center Executive Committee

Grants awarded in previous years

Improving Community College Effectiveness Through Performance Incentives

Summary: We plan to test the impact of incentives that target performance and persistence among community college students in introductory courses. The project will use a randomized controlled trial to test (1) the effects of incentive-pay for instructors and (2) the effect of combining instructor incentives with performance-based summer scholarships for students. Summer scholarships encourage matriculation beyond introductory courses and help avoid the lost connections caused by summer breaks. We will use funding from the Yankelovich Center to run a small-scale randomized trial of summer scholarships among students at Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana. We will examine the impact of summer scholarships on summer enrollment and persistence into the fall semester.

Researchers: Sally Sadoff, UC San Diego, Assistant Professor of Economics and Strategy, Rady School of Management | Andy Brownback, University of Arkansas, Assistant Professor of Economics

Year: 2015-16

Amount: $25,000

America's Shadow Training System: University Extension Schools in Regional Tech Economies

Summary: How can educational institutions serve as "just-in-time" skill delivery intermediaries to help rapidly-changing tech economies grow and provide jobs — and provide the workers to fill them? Contributing to literatures on higher education, worker training, and regional economic development, among others, we compare neglected institutions — university extension schools — in four regional tech economies: Chicago, New York, San Diego, and Seattle. We hypothesize that the process in San Diego and Seattle, but not the older, more diversified economies in Chicago and New York, involves multiple tech players — employers as well as researchers and developers of new technologies. The collaboration by these stakeholders creates curricula that not only teach the skills and competencies that directly serve local workplace needs, but also reflect the best and latest developments in technology. This project can provide scalable best practices and insights into how university extension schools can efficiently develop regionally-tailored, high-skill delivery systems. These schools may thus become true institutions of lifelong learning while contributing to a strong and vibrant middle class.

Researchers: John Skrentny, UC San Diego, Professor of Sociology | Mary Walshok, UC San Diego, Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Programs and Dean of Extension

Year: 2015-16

Amount: $12,855

Enhancing College Completion through Peer Coaching

Summary: Many first-generation and less-advantaged college students struggle because they lack nonacademic skills that children of college graduates acquire at home. We will design and evaluate a program to train and deploy peer coaches who will help less-advantaged students build skills, including how to access campus resources, effective time management, and other key non-academic skills.

Researchers: Eli Berman, UC San Diego, Professor of Economics | Wayne Sandholtz, UC San Diego, PhD candidate in Economics

Year: 2015-16

Amount: $17,663

Improving Odds: Enhancing Access to Quality Autism Interventions for Low-Income Mexican-Heritage Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Summary: Mexican-heritage children, the largest US Latino group, are diagnosed with autism at 50% below the national average, have low rates of intervention participation, and are particularly at risk for mental health problems, including more severe autism symptomology than their white counterparts. This study examines parents' beliefs about autism and their experiences with autism interventions. Findings will promote upward mobility for Mexican-heritage children with autism by identifying specific pathways to autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and adaptations to standardized autism intervention practices that have historically been tested on White middle-income families.

Researcher: Shana Cohen, UC San Diego, Assistant Professor of Education Studies

Year: 2015-16

Amount: $10,000

How Are Voters Willing to Pay for Social Policy? A Computational Analysis of California Ballot Measures

Summary: This project will apply computational methods of text analysis to a new archive of local ballot measures in order to discover which features of policy design are most closely associated with voters’ willingness to pay for education and social spending.

Researcher: Isaac William Martin, UC San Diego, Professor of Sociology

Year: 2015-16

Amount: $16,512

Scaling A Better Mathematical Model: Accelerating Low-Income Students Through Developmental Mathematics in Community College

Summary: Research has shown that making it successfully through developmental mathematics in community college is an overriding challenge for low-income, first-generation minority students. In 2014 the CREATE program at UC San Diego helped to develop a mathematics support program for such students involving extensive one-on-one support. This project will test the model in an expanded number of classrooms with comparison groups and then track the students who do successfully accelerate over time to see if their acceleration holds.

Researchers: Susan Yonezawa, UC San Diego, Associate Director, Center for Research on Educational Excellence, Assessment, Diversity, and Equity (CREATE) | Mica Pollock, UC San Diego, Professor, Education Studies, and Director, Center for Research on Educational Excellence, Assessment, Diversity, and Equity (CREATE) | Carlos De la Lama, San Diego City College, Professor and Mathematics Department Chair | Misael Camarena, San Diego City College, Professor, Mathematics | Bruce Arnold, UC San Diego, Executive Director, Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project (MDTP), Mathematics Department | Tracey Kiser, UC San Diego Education Studies, Ed.D. Candidate, 3rd year and Hilltop High School Mathematics Teacher | Kim Samaniego, Ed.D., San Diego Creative and Performing Arts High School (SCPA), Mathematics Teacher

Year: 2014-15

Amount: $20,000

The College Prep for All Mandate: An Examination of New Graduation Requirements in the Context of San Diego

Summary: This project examines the initial roll-out and effects of the new rules requiring that students must meet the “A-G requirements” of the Cal State and UC systems to earn a high school diploma. The motivating question for this research is the possibility that requiring all students to meet minimum standards for college entrance may actually increase the rate of high school dropouts.

Researchers: Julian Betts, UC San Diego, Professor, Economics | Karen Bachofer, SanDERA | Andrew Zau, SanDERA

Year: 2013-14

Amount: $30,000

Racial Discrimination in Voting: A Conjoint Analysis

Summary: This project develops new experimental methods to address two questions of central importance after the repeal of the Voting Rights Act. First, in which states is voter discrimination against minority candidates relatively severe? Second, what contextual factors — the office at issue, the partisan or nonpartisan character of the election — condition voter discrimination against minority candidates?

Researchers: Marisa Abrajano, UC San Diego, Associate Professor, Political Science | Christopher Elmendorf, UC Davis, Professor, Law | Kevin Quinn, UC Berkeley, Professor, Law

Year: 2013-14

Amount: $18,000

Demanding Political Accountability through Information Technology and Rigorous Social Science Methods

Summary: Develops and assesses the impact of a technology and citizen-based form of election monitoring via smartphones to be implemented during the 2013 general election in Kenya.

Researchers: Clark C. Gibson, UC San Diego, Professor, Political Science | Jeremy Prestholdt, UC San Diego, Associate Professor, History | Craig McIntosh, UC San Diego, Associate Professor, International Relations and Pacific Studies

Year: 2012-13

Amount: $10,000

Project ICON: Investigating the Complexity of Networks

Summary: Project ICON examines professional relationships between teachers and in what ways the quantity and quality of their ties support and constrain educational improvement over time. The investigation used a sampling of social networks in 22 schools in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. One hypothesis examined: that trust among teachers, and between teachers and students, is an under-appreciated asset in advancing student learning.

Researchers: Alan Daly and Nienke M. Moolenaar, UC San Diego, Education Studies | Jeff Rabin, UC San Diego, Mathematics | Joanne Labato, San Diego State University, Mathematics and Statistics | Francisco Escobedo and Lisa Umekubo, Chula Vista Elementary School District

Year: 2012-13

Amount: $24,000

Social Norms Change as Urban Development Strategy

Summary: Launches a research partnership on social norms change between the UC San Diego Center on Global Justice and Corpovisionarios in Colombia, to evaluate and generalize the successful Citizenship Culture Program implemented by Mayor Antanas Mockus in Bogota.

Researchers: Gerald Mackie, UC San Diego, Associate Professor, Political Science and Center on Global justice

Year: 2012-13

Amount: $10,000

The UC San Diego Community-Based Research and Outreach Project: A Prototype and a Vision of Working Partnership between Research Universities and Community Centers

Summary: With so many reforms and experiments underway to assist underserved children, this program is searching for the best way to measure competing methods for teaching reading and math skills by partnering with educators in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District.

Researchers: John Wixted, UC San Diego, Psychology | Charles Curtis, UC San Diego, Music

Year: 2012-13

Amount: $30,000

The UC San Diego Community Stations Initiative: Knowledge Exchange Corridors

Summary: The UC San Diego Community Stations Initiative is a pilot program testing the hypothesis that the practical knowledge of demographically-diverse neighborhoods can serve as an invaluable source of wisdom and guidance, if properly cultivated and channeled. The program connects the specialized knowledge of UC San Diego with the practical knowledge embedded in demographically diverse neighborhoods in San Diego.

Researchers: Mike Cole, UC San Diego, Communication and Center for Community Well-Being | Teddy Cruz, UC San Diego, Visual Arts and Center for Urban Ecologies | Fonna Forman, UC San Diego, Political Science and Center on Global Justice | Ramesh Rao, UC San Diego, Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Qualcomm Institute

Year: 2012-13

Amount: $5,000