The Political Economy of Nonprofit Social Enterprises

Stefanie Haeffele-Balch

Advisor: Peter J Boettke, PhD, Department of Economics

Committee Members: Christopher J. Coyne, Virgil H. Storr

Buchanan Hall, #D135
October 01, 2015, 04:00 PM to 01:00 PM


My dissertation focuses on the political economy of nonprofit social enterprises, or voluntary organizations with social missions, through an examination of the practices and performance of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit organization that provides the opportunity of owning affordable, modest homes to low-income individuals living in inadequate housing. The organization has over 1,500 affiliates in cities and counties across the United States that focus on fostering sustainable homeownership (through a structured program of workshops, sweat equity, and reduced mortgages) rather than just providing housing to the poor.


Three chapters compose my dissertation. The opening chapter is on economic calculation, adaptation, and social learning applied to nonprofits, and will accompany two chapters that focus on Habitat for Humanity. The second chapter examines the mechanisms that Habitat for Humanity utilizes to attempt to provide adequate housing for the poor, and compares those mechanisms to those of government housing programs. I provide an in-depth analysis of the Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama and utilize interviews that I conducted of Habitat employees and homeowners (during the 2009-2010 academic year). The third chapter examines the effects that government interventions that occurred after the housing and financial crises in 2008 had on Habitat for Humanity. Specifically, it looks at how the organization has pursued grants to purchase and sell foreclosed homes, and how those grants and subsequent lobbying and government interaction have altered their mission, outcomes, and social capital investments.