As anchor institutions, our colleges and universities have significant impacts on our local and regional economies. According to the Anchor Economy Initiative at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, higher education institutions and hospitals contribute $1.7 trillion in goods and services to the U.S. economy annually in both direct and indirect impacts. This fellowship explores the role of anchor institutions in economic and community development.

2023 CUMU–Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Fellow

Josie Gatti Schafer, Ph.D., was named the 2023 CUMU-Philadelphia Fed Research Fellow. During the fellowship, Dr. Schafer, director of the Center for Public Affairs Research, University of Nebraska at Omaha, leveraged the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Anchor Economy Dashboard and U.S. Census Bureau data to explore and explain variations in the economic impact of higher education anchor institutions.

Anchor institutions always matter. But, how Much?

Presented by Deborah Diamond, director, Anchor Economy, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, and Josie Gatti Schafer, Ph.D., CUMU–Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Research Fellow, this panel helps to answer the question: Do certain regions benefit more from their anchor institutions than others and, if so, why?

Anchor institutions (universities and hospitals) have unique economic impacts on their communities. In addition to the healthcare and educational outcomes they produce, anchor institutions are often large employers in the region, drivers of population growth, frequent partners in community and economic development activities, and can drive innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Philadelphia Fed has quantified these impacts in its Anchor Economy Dashboard. A brief overview of the dashboard and some recent use cases for the dashboard will be discussed. Then, findings from ongoing research, that combines demographic and economic data with the Anchor Economy Dashboard data will be presented. These data depict the home communities of anchors, including, population mobility, income, diversity, and labor markets. The purpose of this data is to explore variation in the impact of anchor institutions – where and why some anchors have an unusually large (or small) economic development impact on their communities. This analysis can be helpful for a range of institutions to understand their economic impact and begin to think about how best they can support their home communities. Lastly, the panel will include a representative from a community with anchor impact that is above the average to explain what that means for their community and explore the origins of this impact, including, strategies and tactics to ensure anchors have a collaborative and positive impact in their communities.



University of Nebraska at Omaha director of Center for Public Affairs Research named 2023 CUMU–Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia Research Fellow.

More about the CUMU–Philadelphia Fed Fellowship

The Anchor Economy Initiative at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia focuses on the economic impact of higher education and healthcare institutions in their communities. Higher education and hospitals form distinct sectors of regional economies: anchored to place, employing a large number of people for their labor-intensive operations, purchasing goods and services locally, partnering in community development, and providing direct service and benefit to local residents. When “eds and meds” thrive, they contribute to a healthy regional economy. When these institutions face challenges, there can be economic ripple effects throughout their region. The Anchor Economy initiative identifies how reliant local communities are on eds and meds for their economic vitality and explores how this unique sector of the economy can support equitable economic stability and growth.

The Anchor Economy Dashboard is an online tool and dataset that answers two critical questions for 524 regions in the U.S.: What is the economic impact of higher education institutions and hospitals (anchor institutions) on the regions they are in and how dependent are regions on anchor institutions for overall economic activity? The Anchor Economy Dashboard presents first-ever anchor impacts for the entire U.S. by region and a new “reliance index,” demonstrating how dependent regional economies are on these institutions. Data is available for 524 multi-county regions, both metro and nonmetro, and can be accessed here, along with FAQs and a research brief produced by the Philadelphia Fed about the Anchor Economy Dashboard findings.

One research fellowship will be available in FY22. Proposals for research papers should meet the following criteria:

  • Leverage the Anchor Economy Dashboard to establish and examine the research question under consideration. Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:
    • Examining anchor institution collaboratives: their genesis, challenges, and impact
    • The impact of anchor institutions on regional supply chains and the implications for regional entrepreneurship, the support of local, minority-owned businesses, and/or regional economic growth
    • Examining anchor institution behavior and impact on community development in regions of different characteristics, such as concentration of anchor institutions according to the Reliance Index, sociodemographic characteristics, urban/rural distinctions, or population or other change over time.

Submissions must be from a faculty member, staff, post-doc or graduate student from a CUMU member institution. Fellows should have the ability to synthesize findings from complex datasets.

CUMU and the Anchor Economy Initiative at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve will support the research fellow in the following ways:

  • An award of $5,000, $2,500 at the initiation of the project and an additional $2,500 upon submission of the research report or article for publication which should occur no later than August 31, 2023
  • Opportunity to participate in a CUMU-Anchor Economy webinar and/or conference where the research results will be shared and discussed
  • Consultations with the Director of the Anchor Economy Initiative at the Philadelphia Fed and the Executive Director of CUMU, and connections/introductions to other scholars and practitioners in the field

CUMU and the Anchor Economy Initiative at the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank have identified two forms of acceptable deliverable for this project:

Required: A research brief/report to be submitted to the Philadelphia Fed and CUMU. See here for examples of research briefs the Philadelphia Fed publishes.

Optional: A journal article to be submitted to the Metropolitan Universities journal or similar journal; CUMU-Anchor Economy webinar and/or conference where the research results will be shared and discussed.