Foundation Giving and Economics Research Productivity at HBCUs: Empirical Evidence from the Koch Foundation


Existing research on funding disparities between historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and non-HBCUs primarily focuses on government funding and pays little attention to foundation giving. This paper helps to fill this gap by examining the effects of funding by the Charles Koch Foundation—a major funder of economics research in the USA—on the economics research productivity at HBCUs. Using data from the foundation’s tax forms, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and Scopus, this paper examines factors that explain the foundation’s grant results and how the foundation’s money affects economics research productivity at HBCUs. The paper estimates the effects of Koch funding on three different measures of HBCU productivity: number of publications, citations, and publications in top economics journals. We report ordinary least squares, two-step generalized linear model, and Poisson results that show little or no impact from (a) recipiency of a Koch grant, (b) the total amount of grant dollars, or (c) the average amount of grant dollars on research productivity. We also obtain event study and difference-in-differences estimates of the effects of Koch grants to HBCUs on publications and publications per faculty member and again find no statistically significant impacts. The evidence obtained—consistent across different model specifications and estimation techniques—does not support the hypothesis that Koch’s funding to HBCUs is primarily geared towards enhancing the research productivity of these colleges and universities. The paper discusses alternative explanations for the Charles Koch Foundation’s targeting strategy and its involvement with particular HBCUs.

Journal of Economics Race and Policy