Shirley Shiqin Liu and Haifeng Qian Receive 2023 Best Paper in Urban Entrepreneurship Award (Sponsored By Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation)

Urban Affairs Association > UAA Community News > Shirley Shiqin Liu and Haifeng Qian Receive 2023 Best Paper in Urban Entrepreneurship Award (Sponsored By Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation)

Dr. Shirley Shiqin Liu (University of Minnesota) and Dr. Haifeng Qian (University of Iowa) were selected as the recipients of the 2023 Best Paper in Urban Entrepreneurship Award for their paper “Entrepreneurship and Income Inequality in Cities: Differentiated Impacts of New Firm Formation and Self-Employment.”

This award seeks to recognize research presented at the 2022 UAA Conference as part of the Special Track on Urban Entrepreneurship sponsored by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.


“The paper explores critical, unexpected impacts that entrepreneurship can have on income inequality in U.S. metropolitan regions. Previous studies have found entrepreneurship is associated with greater local economic growth, but little work has been done on the distribution of those economic effects. This paper begins to fill that gap. 

The paper utilizes empirical tests to tease out the possible ways new firms (start-ups) and self-employment could affect income levels and resulting inequality. To conduct the study, the authors compiled an extensive ten-year panel data set. They used both a fixed effects panel estimation and an instrumental variables estimation to focus on the causal direction of the entrepreneurial impacts. Three measures of inequality were used to assess the robustness of the findings. The general findings showed that new firm formations did not increase inequality measures, but greater self- employment did. The authors then assessed the impact of each form of entrepreneurship on the lower and upper sections of the income distribution, to explore the likely pathways of each on income changes and the inequality gap. The results suggest quite different impacts of each form on different income groups. The research was an impressive empirical exploration of a dimension of entrepreneurship that is often ignored, but with implications for the types of economic development policies that cities should pursue.”


Annette Steinacker, Loyola University Chicago (Chair); Xueming Chen, Virginia Commonwealth University; Christian King, University of Central Florida; Sara O’Connor, University of California, Irvine; Seva Rodnyansky, Occidental College


Shiqin Liu holds a PhD in public policy from Northeastern University and a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Iowa. Her research focuses mainly on regional economic development, transportation accessibility, urban built environment, and spatial data science. She currently serves as a researcher for the Accessibility Observatory in the University of Minnesota’s Center for Transportation Studies. In her role, she focuses on measuring transportation access to opportunities employing open-source data and reproducible data science methods. She seeks a greater understanding of the socioeconomic and environmental outcomes of improving transportation network accessibility. Her prior work has been published in peer-reviewed journals including Regional Studies, Geographical Analysis, Lancet Global Health, Economic Development Quarterly, and Journal of Urban Affairs.

Dr. Haifeng Qian is Associate Professor and Associate Director of the School of Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Iowa. He is also a senior research fellow at the university’s Public Policy Center. Previously he was Assistant Professor at Cleveland State University and Visiting Associate Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has published extensively in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation, urban economic development, and science & technology policy. Dr. Qian is an editor of Regional Studies, an editor of Small Business Economics, and an associate editor of Economic Development Quarterly. He was the Chair of the North American Regional Science Council. He has been a consultant for the World Bank, OECD, and other non-profit organizations. He holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy (George Mason University), an M.S. in Management Science & Engineering (Tsinghua University), and a B.S. in Engineering Physics (Tsinghua University).


The Urban Affairs Association (UAA) is an international professional organization for 700+ urban scholars, researchers, policy analysts, & public service providers. UAA is dedicated to creating interdisciplinary spaces for engaging in intellectual and practical discussions about urban life. Through theoretical, empirical, and action-oriented research, UAA fosters diverse activities to understand and shape a more just and equitable urban world.

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