Stokan's research focuses on the politics and economics of local community and economic development practices. Overarching themes in Stokan's work include the decision making context which lead governments to adopt different types of economic development incentives, and the impact of these decisions on key indicators of economic growth to discern whether and how economic development incentives lead to equitable economic growth.
Uses a large national sample of U.S. cities. Provides evidence that municipal job-recruitment or attraction efforts through traditional financial incentives reduces the likelihood that local governments will make commitments toward sustainability efforts. Finds that cities which placed greater emphasis on retaining and developing existing businesses were more committed to sustainability.
Utilizes surveys of U.S. cities at multiple time periods to examine the comparative use of nonprofit economic development corporations and their performance on smart-growth and social equity policy activities. Finds that the use of Local Development Corporations is negatively associated with land use policies intended to advance social inclusion.
Accounts for the transition from community development and economic development as largely distinct fields to community economic development where the practices and theory have become increasingly connected. Traces this transition over time, which is reflected in core public administration theory, and does so drawing on several community economic development programs in Detroit.
Uses a nationwide sample of US cities between 1999 and 2009. Finds that when accounting for the factors that lead to economic development decision making, the role of the state must be considered. Finds that failing to account for whether the state has statutorily authorized particular economic development incentives (e.g. tax abatements, tax increment financing, and enterprise zones) leads to biased estimates of the drivers of those policies.
Finds that business incubators lead to improved economic growth and job creation even after accounting for the factors that increase the likelihood of business incubation. Finds further that incubated firms received five times as many business services (legal, financial, marketing, etc.) as compared to nonincubated firms which highlights the likely networking effect.
Dispels several myths supported by conventional wisdom regarding manufacturing in the United States. Finds that, given a metropolitan area's industrial structure some of these areas performed better than expected, long-term economic distress was not inevitable if the area was highly concentrated in manufacturing, that manufacturing remains an important component in many metropolitan area economies, and that much of the growth in the service sector is based upon or complementary to the existence of manufacturing.