News Release

US Department of Labor announces selection of researchers to analyze how labor policies, protections, programs reach underserved communities

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the selection of five teams and individuals to analyze how federal labor policies, protections and programs reach historically underserved communities.

Competitively selected in the inaugural Summer Data Equity Challenge, – sponsored by the department’s Chief Evaluation Office – the researchers will examine data on unemployment insurance, disability employment, H-2A temporary agricultural employment enforcement, and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Each of the groups and individuals will receive up to $30,000 to support their efforts.

The challenge and the research it yields will help the department understand barriers to accessing federal benefits and services and encourage scholars, especially emerging scholars, to focus on equity issues. Researchers will use publicly available data and other external data sources to highlight meaningful gaps in knowledge and propose practical solutions to fill those gaps.

“The Summer Data Equity Challenge underscores the U.S. Department of Labor’s commitment to equity,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Research and Evaluation Alexander Hertel-Fernandez. “Understanding the impact of federal programs and identifying gaps in knowledge will help us improve our labor policies, protections and programs.”

The researchers and their projects are as follows:

  • Dr. Eliza Forsythe and Hesong Yang from the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois will use the Current Population Survey, the University of Southern California’s “Understanding Coronavirus in America” survey results, and the department’s unemployment insurance data to measure disparities in unemployment insurance eligibility, UI claim-filing behavior and who received benefits between demographic groups before and during the pandemic.
  • Dr. Alex Bell, Dr. Till Von Wachter, Roozbeh Moghadam, TJ Hedin and Geoffrey Schnorr from the California Policy Lab at the University of California will use the department’s Employment and Training Administration’s tables, the Current Population Survey and the California Employment Development Department’s Unemployment Insurance Claims File to study neighborhood, county and state-level disparities in the receipt of unemployment insurance benefits during the pandemic.
  • Sarah Garcia of the University of Minnesota will use the IPUMS National Health Interview Survey, U.S. Census Bureau's County Business Pattern data and the University of Kentucky Center for Poverty Research’s National Welfare Data to study labor market correlates to the rising rates of disability among working-age Americans.
  • Dr. Rebecca Johnson and Yuchuan Ma of Dartmouth College will partner with Elizabeth Shackney and Cassie Davis of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid and will use the department’s Wage and Hour Division Compliance Action Data, ETA’s Quarterly Job Disclosures, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s debarment records, scraped seasonal jobs data, and a private local dataset on H-2A-related intake calls from a community-based organization to study how new computational methods, such as supervised machine learning and natural language processing, can be used to improve equity in the division’s protections for H-2A guest workers.
  • Dr. Kelly Jones and Farah Tasneem from American University will use the Current Population Survey and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Study to study the extent to which underserved communities are excluded from the Family and Medical Leave Act and the potential benefits to these communities of expanding eligibility.

Learn more about the Summer Data Equity Challenge winners.

The Chief Evaluation Office coordinates, manages and implements the department’s evaluation program. 

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy
May 26, 2021
Release Number
Media Contact: Christine Feroli
Share This