CSBS Small Grant Success Story: Bruno, Bellisle, Mendenhall, and Andrade

Postdoctoral Researcher, Dylan Bellisle

Principal Investigator Robert Bruno and co-investigators Dylan Bellisle, Ruby Mendenhall, and Flavia Andrade’s project, “Examining the Diversity of Experience with the Federal Tax System across Race and Immigration Status: A case of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit,” was selected as a recipient for the Center for Social and Behavioral Science’s Small Grant Program in 2021.

CSBS spoke with co-investigator Dylan Bellisle, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Project for Middle Class Renewal in the School of Labor and Employment Relations. Bellisle had been doing research on how families navigate tax policy when he and his team discovered the small grant program.

Throughout the application process, Bellisle said his research team found each step to be intuitive and straightforward. One of the things he enjoyed the most about working with CSBS was gaining additional perspective from the CSBS Research Development Manager.

“Elsa [Augustine] had done some work within the same area, so it was great to meet and talk with someone who I could bounce ideas off of and gain feedback,” Bellisle said.

The team sees potential for their research to have an impact on future policies.

“It’s been successful in terms of a couple of reports and sharing findings with community partners,” Bellisle said.

For example, “Families’ Experiences with the Child Tax Credit (CTC),” illustrates important diversity in reported CTC-receipt by race, gender, income, family structure, and marital status among households who would be potentially eligible for CTC. It also presents findings from in-depth interviews and focus groups to provide additional context on how families experience the CTC payments, the confusions families had about the expanded CTC, and the challenges and successes of reaching “the hardest to reach”, immigrant families, and “non-nuclear” families.

The research also led to a partnership with New America Chicago, a nonpartisan policy innovation lab committed to finding practical solutions to community challenges, particularly those related to racial inequity, work, and income.

Learn more about Bellisle’s experience with the small grant program through this brief Q&A.

Tell us briefly about your research project.

The goal of the research project is to examine the experience parents and caregivers had with the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) and tax filing. We are interested in how caregivers understood the expanded CTC, their experience receiving the payments, and the general impact the CTC had on their families. We are particularly interested in the challenges and barriers caregivers had in accessing the payment and the extent to which racialized experiences and immigration experiences shaped their experience.  

In what ways did the CSBS Small Grant Program help you to connect with interdisciplinary collaborators at Illinois?

The CSBS small grant motivated us to be creative in considering multiple disciplinary perspectives on the topic. It pushed us to recruit a diverse team that I believe has strengthened the overall project as we each bring a unique perspective to the study and what may matter in shaping families’ experiences with the CTC. 

How did the initial CSBS Small Grant funding aid in your external funding efforts?

CSBS’s format of asking us to consider questions that are similar to external funders enabled us to start the work of laying out our overarching research project, goals and objectives. These questions pushed us to critically consider how to do the research and additional avenues for data collection. Furthermore, the feedback we received improved our research design. Lastly, many external funders like to see some evidence or proof of concept, and our research has helped to create the foundation for that future research. 

What advice do you have for Illinois faculty and staff who may be interested in applying for a CSBS Small Grant?

The staff are very knowledgeable and helpful. I highly recommend applying for the CSBS small grant, particularly for new projects you may be seeking to start. 

The CSBS Small Grant Program brings together researchers to develop ambitious and innovative research projects that will advance social and behavioral science and show promise for external funding. The program provides funding to faculty and research staff at UIUC to pursue research pertinent to CSBS’s three grand challenges: the digital revolution, inequity and poverty, and social and behavioral health.