Sinquefield Center Engages St. Louis Community


Photo by Steve Dolan

One of SLU’s newest centers for research, the Sinquefield Center for Applied Economic Research, began making its mark on the St. Louis community. The Sinquefield Center was established in 2019 thanks to a donation from Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, and conducts research focused on “economic growth and social welfare than can inform public policy.”  

Michael Podgursky, P.h.D., the director of the Center said, “We are gathering longitudinal data on people. For example [the pipeline of] kids to school to work.” Data collected by the Center will range from jobs held by certain people based on their education levels, their gender and other distinctive features down to commuting trends of neighborhoods.

Podgursky said that they were working to obtain data on a large number of topics, from many different unique sources, such as the Dese Department and the Department of Higher Education. The Center will use the data on a number of projects, including the current focus of workforce and educational development. Analyzing and evaluating education and employment data could help to discover what ways the education system can be improved to help individuals and communities grow and sustain economic development. 

“We are interested in human capital development,” said Podgursky. “We want to know where kids [in the education system] are succeeding and failing. We want to find out how we can make education work better in the area.” 

Dr. Takako Nomi, who is an associate professor of educational studies, also works with the Center researching education data, is focusing on the inequalities in “high school-to-college outcomes” from schools and districts across the St. Louis region.

Another facet of the Sinquefield Center’s research is directed towards economic growth projects throughout the area. One of the most exciting opportunities that the Center has for determining if the economic growth is successful is the brand-new National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) project being built in North St. Louis. Because the NGA project is an initiative that aims to bring employment and economic stimulation to the communities around it, the 1.7-billion-dollar endeavor allows the Sinquefield Center to have a unique “before-and-after” picture of the projects impact. 

“Imagine throwing a rock into a still pond,” said Podgursky. “That’s what we are doing. Looking at ripple effects and impacts.” 

The Sinquefield Center is also creating opportunities for students and faculty at SLU. The Center is bringing together faculty and graduate researchers from across the University to work on a number of different projects. For example, Enbal Shacham, P.h.D., is using the big data collected by the Center to research the different factors affecting health outcomes in the area. Beyond sponsoring faculty research, the Center hopes to hire more students, both undergraduate and graduate, and get them involved in the valuable work that they’re doing.