The AIR Equity Initiative
Investing AIR Resources to Improve Lives
Since 1946, AIR has conducted rigorous research and used evidence to address complex social issues and improve the lives of individuals, from birth to the end of life, both domestically and across the globe. Given this important challenge, AIR is using its own funds to launch an agenda and a partnership program around equity. The AIR Equity Initiative supports mission-driven approaches that public agencies, foundations, or other donors are unlikely to fund.
AIR's Equity Initiative will tackle long-standing problems that prevent people from having access to quality employment, education, and health care. In November 2020, AIR’s Board of Directors authorized a five-year programmatic agenda to advance this work.
Equity Initiative-supported efforts will:
- Identify key levers for structural change to propel educational and economic opportunity in communities segregated from opportunity;
- Assist the equitable implementation of policy for historically marginalized groups;
- Improve evidence-based programs, capacity building, and technical assistance for and with input from those who are often underserved;
- Increase opportunity for underrepresented staff at AIR to advance Mission; and
- Diversify and strengthen the cultural competence of the behavioral and social science research fields to address inequities more effectively.
Funded projects will catalyze new ways of working—leveraging AIR’s research, evaluation, and technical assistance expertise with education, workforce, and health leaders, practitioners, community experts, and policymakers to reexamine and address longstanding inequities.
As we move this work forward, AIR and the Equity Initiative are committed to investing in diversity and inclusion, generating evidence that centers on equity, using evidence for equity, and building influential relationships to improve access to opportunity and economic mobility for those who have been systematically marginalized.
INVESTMENTS TO ADVANCE EQUITY
Pipeline Partnership Program
In addition to these four programmatic areas, the AIR Equity Initiative supports the Pipeline Partnership Program which engages with graduate-level students and faculty at Georgia State University in Atlanta; Howard University in Washington, D.C.; and The University of Texas at San Antonio. Grounded in AIR’s Mission, the program is an extension of our ongoing efforts to build cultural competence within AIR and the field.
AIR works collaboratively with university faculty, AIR experts, and Institute Fellows to provide seminars and workshops that explore best practices in research methodology, data analysis, ethics, and evidence-based program and policy implementation to enhance equity, diversity, and inclusion in research and technical assistance. Students also participate in mentorships and internships with leaders who conduct research, evaluation, and technical assistance projects, both in the United States and abroad. In addition, faculty have the opportunity to collaborate with AIR teams on proposals, projects, and learning events.
These efforts have enabled both AIR staff and university students and faculty to diversify their professional networks, enrich research pursuits, and reinforce and extend skills that are relevant for research careers.
Other AIR-Supported Projects
Testing an Agriculture Intervention’s Effect on Maternal and Infant Health in Tanzania (2017-present)
According to UNICEF, approximately 161 million children experience stunted growth because of inequitable access to food and balanced diets. Efforts to address this disparity have led to favoring production of a small set of crops (such as rice, corn, and wheat) at the expense of diverse, nutrient-dense, indigenous plants. AIR is testing the impact of a new intervention designed to reintroduce orange-fleshed sweet potatoes—a “neglected” crop—to help reduce child malnutrition and vitamin A deficiency in Tanzania.
The Zambia eSchool 360 Expansion Project: A Program That Aims to Improve Education in Zambia (2016-present)
The eSchool 360 program model, implemented by the Impact Network and supported by AIR, increases educational access and quality through technology and training in rural Zambia. This project expanded from nine to 44 schools with a staff of 157 teachers and 6,000 students in a school year. Through this effort, AIR is providing new educational and job opportunities for learners and community members in rural Zambia.
Low- and middle-income countries have made significant strides in getting children into school, but that has not always translated to educational achievement. Of the approximately 250 million children across the world who lack basic math and reading skills, about half have spent at least four years in school. Impact Network’s eSchool 360 Program, which was implemented in Zambia, aims to improve the quality of education by incorporating three components: e-learning, ongoing teacher training, and community ownership.
Each year more than 400,000 children are removed from their homes and enter foster care, placing them at high risk for poor developmental outcomes. To address this issue, ZERO TO THREE created the Safe Babies Court TeamTM (SBCT) approach, which aims to reduce the time until a child in the welfare system reaches a safe, permanent home. AIR conducted a natural experiment that tested the impact of the SBCT approach on the time children spend in foster care, the rates of recurrences of abuse or neglect, and family and child well-being.
Consistent, correct use of evidence-based practices by practitioners, such as home visitors, can help improve children’s outcomes. AIR conducted a randomized control trial pilot study with a small sample of children, families, and home visitors to evaluate the impacts of an early language intervention, PC TALK, on children’s early language development. The findings showed that home visitors enhanced their professional competencies through study participation. In addition, the study found documented improvements in parents use of language development strategies.
Enhancing the Oral Language Proficiency of Young Dual-Language Learners in High Poverty Schools (2016-2020)
The goal of this project was to develop and pilot test methods and materials that enhance the oral language proficiency of young children who are dual-language learners. The project—Cultivating Oral Language and Literacy Talent in Students (COLLTS)—consists of professional development in evidence-based teaching methods and curriculum for preschool teachers and family literacy activities of 3-year-old, Spanish-speaking dual-language learners.
Studies find a consistent gap in math achievement, starting as early as kindergarten. This study developed and evaluated a math learning program for 2- and 3-year-old children that provides parents with resources and developmentally appropriate activities through their smartphones. AIR researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the intervention.
Access to family leave may contribute to positive health behaviors, such as well-child visits, immunizations, breastfeeding, and other preventive health care services. This study examined the link between awareness of family leave policies, use of paid and/or job-protected family leave, and maternal and child health. It is the first study to examine this relationship using medical health records, among other data sources, and it deliberately oversampled African Americans, Spanish-speaking individuals, and those who receive Medicaid benefits. Findings are being reviewed and will be released soon.
Project Talent is the largest and most comprehensive study of high school students ever conducted in the United States and is now the largest and longest longitudinal life course study. The study participants, who were initially surveyed in 1960, are moving into retirement, and Project Talent has become a resource for understanding the aging process, allowing participants to continue involvement in this remarkable and historic study.
For low-income students, access to a postsecondary degree continues to be a barrier to economic mobility. A grant to Say Yes to Education focused on planning activities for the establishment of the Weiss Institute, which aims to increase postsecondary degree completion through scholarships and other support services. A key element of this approach includes the implementation of interagency and cross-sector strategies to bring together stakeholders—including city and county governments, school districts, teachers, businesses, colleges, and universities—to drive powerful community outcomes in postsecondary degree completion.