HDR announced it is sponsoring new research into the economics of equity in decision making on infrastructure projects including transportation, water, flood protection, energy, and more.
Principal economist Chris Behr, who received one of six HDR fellowship awards this year, is leading the project.
Behr and his team will develop methods for systematically assessing the distribution of benefits and costs to people who are positively and negatively affected by projects. A key focus of this work involves determining how best to augment benefit-cost analyses in ways that account for equity. Ultimately, the aim of this work is to help public agencies better understand a project’s value from an equity perspective and to support their efforts to compete for public funding.
“Standard benefit-cost analyses assume that all people place the same value on project outcomes,” Behr said. “In reality, a dollar is worth more to someone with two minimum-wage jobs than to a CEO. Equity-adjusted benefit-cost analyses reveal the differences in value of outcomes to people and provide a broader perspective on the total value of proposed projects. With this approach, agencies can assess the equity value of a single project and compare equity across project options.”
On May 20, HDR officially began the research fellowship with an inaugural meeting of its nine-member advisory panel of prominent academic economists and practitioners. The research project is scheduled to conclude at the end of this year. HDR’s fellowship program provides staff with the opportunity and resources to develop solutions to technical and design issues facing clients and the industry.
“This research will give our clients another tool to meaningfully evaluate and incorporate equity into infrastructure decision-making,” said Cathy LaFata, transportation equity director. “The investment in this fellowship shows HDR’s robust support for advancing equity at every stage of the infrastructure life cycle.”