Carolyn Barnes, assistant professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy, has been named a William T. Grant Scholar. The prestigious program selects fewer than six promising early-career researchers each year, based on the scholars’ potential to become influential researchers.
Barnes will receive $350,000 over the next five years to support a study titled “How Politics, Poverty, and Social Policy Implementation Shape Racial Inequality in Child Development in the Rural South.” The W.T. Grant Foundation program also provides access to mentoring from senior scholars.
“My goal is to examine how the practices of welfare offices in rural contexts mediate racial inequality and affect child development,” Barnes said.
Rural poverty outpaces urban poverty, especially in the South, where 21.3 percent of rural residents are poor compared to 15.5 percent of urban residents. Blacks, Latinos and Native Americans in rural areas experience higher rates of poverty than rural whites.
“Research has not yet answered the question of how ‘small-town’ norms, values, hierarchies and politics make their way into the day-to-day life of welfare offices or, conversely, how these offices themselves disadvantage children of color by contributing to the social and economic order of communities,” Barnes said.
Barnes’ study is focused on rural North Carolina, where the poverty rate exceeds the national rate (NC: 14.7 percent vs US: 12.3 percent) and where wide racial disparities in poverty exist. In addition to conducting hundreds of interviews with community leaders, public officials, Department of Social Services staff and residents in each county, Barnes will incorporate analysis of child development data.
As a W.T. Grant Scholar, Barnes also will receive mentoring from senior scholars.
Previous Sanford faculty members who were named W.T. Grant Scholars are Elizabeth Ananat (2015), Candice Odgers (2014), Christina Gibson-Davis (2012), and Jacob Vigdor (2009).