Two professors from Ball State University have been awarded a $650,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The funding will be used to study the effects of economic and social stress on people living in rural communities.
Dr. Emily Wornell, a research assistant professor in BSU’s Indiana Communities Institute, and Dr. Ellen Whitehead, assistant professor of sociology, received the funding through the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative for their five-year research project.
“We are grateful to the United States Department of Agriculture for funding this important research endeavor,” Wornell said. “We feel this project is aligned with the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s goals of promoting economically and socially sustainable, resilient rural communities. We believe our research will produce a unique and nuanced set of findings that may guide policy discussion regarding the local and state response to informal work.”
Through a mixed-methods approach, Ball State says the study’s ultimate goal is to improve the prosperity and well-being of rural communities by “identifying the role that informal economic activity plays in the livelihoods, social structure, and resilience of rural people and communities, particularly in times of economic and social stress.”
The study’s objectives include describing the ways in which rural people and households participate in informal work, and how this varies by social group, as well as examining how participation in informal work changes in response to social, technological and economic contexts.
The researchers hope the study can help inform state and local decision makers regarding the challenges and benefits of informal economic activity.