NSF Grant Funds Study of Poverty, Neighborhoods

Doctoral Student in Economics Supervises Team Conducting Field Research

Sept. 24, 2008

What began as a pilot experimental economics project in the Dallas community has become a National Science Foundation-funded study of the relationship among poverty, neighborhood quality and the preferences of neighborhood residents and has created major opportunities for a doctoral student in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences.

Angela de Oliveira
Angela de Oliveira

Angela de Oliveira, an economics Ph.D. candidate, was part of a team that developed field experiments for use with residents in low-income Dallas neighborhoods. 

She then led the implementation and supervised the team that conducted the research in the field.

The initial experiments were so successful that Dr. Rachel Croson, Dr. Catherine Eckel and de Oliveira received an NSF grant to continue and expand the study.

The project is based in the UT Dallas Center for Behavioral and Experimental Economic Science (CBEES).

“It’s rare to see a Ph.D. student as a co-primary investigator on an NSF grant,” said Dr. Eckel.  “The success of this project is really a testament to Angela’s creativity and insight.”

The study measures preferences and behavior related to risk, patience, cooperation and charitable giving within low-income neighborhoods.  The researchers studied a predominantly African-American neighborhood in South Dallas, a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood in West Dallas and a mixed population neighborhood in Plano.  De Oliveira’s dissertation is based on the South Dallas data, while the National Science Foundation grant provided funding to expand the sample to the other neighborhoods.  The team has now completed the field work on the remaining neighborhoods and is in the process of analyzing the results.

“Poverty and neighborhood quality are some of the most important problems of our time,” says de Oliveira, “and, unfortunately, there is still a lot that we don’t know about how to solve these problems. Though this research program won't give us all of the answers, I believe that it will at least help move us in the right direction.”

Now, de Oliveira is sharing news of this study with researchers from around the world through a series of national and international conference presentations.

During the summer, de Oliveira received one of only 10 travel awards to present her work at the Symposium on the Foundations of Human Social Behavior hosted by University of Zurich in Switzerland. She joined economists, psychologists, biologists and neuroscientists who are interested in understanding why humans are a cooperative species and how this behavior evolved.

Oliveira was also given the opportunity to present her research at the highly selective Summer School on Economics and Philosophy: Social Norms hosted by the Urrutia Elejalde Foundation in San Sebastian, Spain. This conference focused on how norms arise and evolve, and how they can impact economic decision making.

In addition to her international travels, Oliveira has presented her work at the Economic Science Association International meeting in Pasadena, Calif.  She also recently received invitations to present her work in a special session highlighting outstanding graduate student research at the upcoming the 78th Annual Conference of the Southern Economic Association in Washington, D.C. this November, and at an NSF-funded conference on social dilemmas, to be held at the Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity at Arizona State University in January.


Media Contacts: Audrey Glickert, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4320, audrey.glickert@utdallas.edu
and the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Joseph House

Cornerstone Baptist Church donated space in the Joseph House for the South Dallas sessions conducted by the UT Dallas research team.

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