A Letter from Our Directors 

Image accompanying letter

In 2018, the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research launched a major research initiative to explore how communities can create broadly shared prosperity by helping residents get and keep good jobs. This initiative—known as “Promise: Investing in Community”—has two primary goals: 1) to produce high-quality research on place-based issues, and 2) to take the results of this rigorous research and translate them into practical advice for policymakers. We want the knowledge generated by this initiative to be applied in the “real world” to strengthen communities. 

How to better bridge research and practice has driven our work this year. It was a central theme of our annual convening—where we brought together our research affiliates, policy advisors, and practitioners—and discussed how to best achieve collaboration and coordination among different stakeholders. This theme permeated many of our presentations and op-eds this year, as we focused on evidence-backed ways to improve place-based scholarships, business incentives, pre-K, and workforce supports, among others, to more effectively and more broadly benefit residents in all communities. It was also echoed in Tim’s congressional testimony and later in the passage of the pilot Recompete Act (part of the Chips and Science Act of 2022), which is based on his research and provides $1 billion to fund a trial program to assist 10 distressed communities. And the theme has driven the redesign of our fourth annual report, Bridging Research and Practice to Achieve Community Prosperity. 

This edition of our annual report includes a series of articles on how both research and practice can inform policy. We first feature key takeaways from our convening, as well as the highlights of conversations we had with some of our policy advisors and research affiliates. We next focus on policy lessons that can be learned from both research and practice in the five key areas of interest to our initiative: 1) workforce development, 2) place-based scholarships, 3) economic development, 4) housing, and 5) child care. In adopting this format, we hope to further demonstrate that drawing on ideas and research from a diverse array of people can yield practical policy advice.  

The past few years have highlighted the geographic divide in prosperity between different places. This inequity creates major social and political issues: many residents’ potential capabilities in struggling areas are underutilized, and many residents in these places feel disconnected from our national economic and political institutions. This regional divergence creates additional inequality: where someone is born and where they live has an outsized impact on their economic future. Increasingly, politicians and policymakers are turning to place-based policies to help provide opportunities to people in lagging places. In the past few years, many state and local areas have responded to these place-based problems with creative policies.  

Research into place-based policies is not effective unless it can be used by those who participate in making local action happen. We hope our annual report provides you an opportunity to connect with our work. It is our wish that the policies and recommendations within our report help spur effective initiatives to strengthen communities. 


Co-directors of the Upjohn Institute’s “Promise: Investing in Community” Initiative 

To read more, please check out the rest of our latest report: https://www.upjohn.org/major-initiatives/promise-investing-community/about-initiative/annual-reports.


Timothy J. Bartik headshot

Timothy J. Bartik

Senior Economist
Brad J. Hershbein headshot

Brad J. Hershbein

Senior Economist and Deputy Director of Research
Michelle Miller-Adams headshot

Michelle Miller-Adams

Senior Researcher