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UMD Researchers Receive $1M Spencer Award to Investigate Disparities in Resources for Children

University of Maryland researchers, supported by a $1 million award from the Spencer Foundation, will investigate inequality in public and private investments in children from different backgrounds, and recommend interventions to reduce racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps and improve outcomes for underserved youth.

Led by College of Education Assistant Professor David Blazar, who also directs the Maryland Equity Project, the research aims to help policymakers determine the greatest “bang for the buck” when making decisions about investing resources in a variety of social programs, ranging from education to health care to family- or community-based programming.

“There are longstanding lines of research that demonstrate inequality in educational outcomes between rich and poor kids and between students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, but also unequal access to resources like high-quality teachers and health care,” Blazar said. “However, we know much less about how differentials investments accumulate across sectors (e.g., education, health), or the total dollar amount of these differences.”

The research team includes Associate Professor Claudia Galindo, Professor Steven Klees, Dean and Professor Jennifer King Rice, and Associate Professor Marvin Titus from the College of Education, as well as Assistant Professor Michel Boudreaux from the School of Public Health. First, they will use national survey data to identify the sectors—education, health, family, community—and life phases in which disparities in investments in children from different backgrounds are largest. Next, the team will synthesize evidence from existing research to determine the effect of different sorts of interventions on outcomes for children.

The team will combine all these findings in order to develop a guide for policymakers on the most effective and efficient use of additional resources to address existing investment inequalities.

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