One of the economic issues Rhode Island policymakers would like to understand empirically is if the state’s personal income tax is driving high-wage earners out of state.
With that question in mind, two college faculty members are taking a stab at gathering the evidence from a more narrowly focused research project that might lead to an answer. Theirs is one of five such projects launched in a two-year pilot program through a new nonprofit called the College and University Research Collaborative.
Shani D. Carter, Rhode Island College professor of management, said that she and Bryant University professor of economics Jongsung Kim met through a Statehouse gathering organized by the collaborative and successfully applied for a $7,500 grant to study personal tax rates and median earnings data for Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
“The collaborative posed talking points and questions to get us thinking,” said Carter in a recent interview. “The state was interested in taxes and whether it’s making us less competitive regionally. So we’re trying to determine whether personal income tax rates [affect] where high-earning people decide to live.”
The data and evidence that result from that and four other research proposals will be provided first to a panel of four state policy directors in April, and soon thereafter shared broadly across the state, said Amber Caulkins, the collaborative’s program director. Researchers working across 11 colleges and universities in the state will not be making recommendations, but instead are culling evidence that policymakers can use in making decisions, she said.
“Our goal is to be a resource to policy leaders in the state by connecting public policy and academic research in Rhode Island,” Caulkins said.
Making its debut quietly in 2013 with a $100,000 grant from the Rhode Island Foundation and a matching grant from the R.I. Commerce Corporation, the collaborative was launched by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, which is also the fiduciary agent, and the state’s three public institutions of higher education.
“This is the first time all 11 institutions [of higher education] have come together and organized in a way that they could be responsive to the policymakers and consumers in government and use all of the assets of the institutions broadly in the service of the state,” said David M. Dooley, president of the University of Rhode Island and part of the collaborative’s executive committee.