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Our research on cities and communities cuts across several Urban Institute specialties—housing trends, crime prevention, economic development, arts and culture, and more.

Our urban studies define much of our history, from evaluations of community development corporations in poor neighborhoods to road-tested ideas for rebuilding New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, to more recent projects helping policymakers monitor communities' progress. We also work closely with local groups to grasp and address the Washington, D.C., area's challenges. Read more.

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Stop and Frisk: Balancing Crime Control with Community Relations (Research Report)
Nancy G. La Vigne, Pamela Lachman, Shebani Rao, Andrea Matthews

Police have been stopping, questioning, and frisking pedestrians for decades in an effort to protect themselves and the public from harm. However, pedestrians may view the stop and frisk experience as unjustified and perceive that they are subject to unfair and overly aggressive treatment. These feelings are most pronounced for those residing in high-crime areas that are targets for intensive stop and frisk activities. Because citizens’ views of the police contribute to their willingness to cooperate with and empower law enforcement, minimizing the negative effects of stop and frisk is crucial for overall police effectiveness and is especially important for improving relations with communities of color. This publication discusses the constitutionality and legal precedents of stop and frisk and the theory and practice behind these street stops. This background is followed by a discus¬sion of stop and frisk’s unintended consequences and a series of practical recommendations for the lawful and respectful use of pedestrian stops in the context of community policing.

Posted to Web: October 15, 2014Publication Date: October 15, 2014

Evaluation: Rebuild by Design Phase I (Research Report)
Carlos Martin, Elizabeth Oo, Rolf Pendall, Diane K. Levy, Abigail Baum

Rebuild by Design launched in June 2013 by the federal Hurricane Sandy Task Force. HUD, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the JPB Foundation partnered with the Urban Institute to evaluate the first phase of RBD from conception through design awards. The evaluation found that RBD’s implementation held true to its innovative vision for integrating design competition into disaster recovery and its ambition for regional and resilient infrastructure. Leadership among the core partners and the magnitude of the $1 billion in CDBG-DR funding for awards motivated all of the key stakeholders in spite of an expedited timeframe and daunting requirements.

Posted to Web: October 13, 2014Publication Date: October 13, 2014

Partner's Perspective: NNIP and Open Data in Baltimore (Research Report)
Eric Burnstein, Seema Iyer

The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance—Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI) housed at the University of Baltimore is a key player in Baltimore’s open data community. BNIA-JFI connects the city government, civil society, and the tech community through hackathons and other events to create products like baltimorevacants.org, an online mapping tool that pinpoints vacant buildings and links them to neighborhood-level demographic indicators. The increasing number of people and organizations who want BNIA-JFI to provide open data solidifies BNIA-JFI’s role in the conversation on data-driven decisionmaking for neighborhoods.

Posted to Web: September 03, 2014Publication Date: September 03, 2014

Transforming Performance Measurement for the 21st Century (Research Report)
Harry P. Hatry

While substantial progress has been made in spreading performance measurement across the country and world, much of the information from performance measurement systems has been shallow. Modern technology and the considerable demand for information on progress in achieving the outcomes of public programs and policies are creating major opportunities for considerably improving the usefulness of performance information. This report provides a number of recommendations to help public and private service organizations take advantage of these opportunities, particularly for:(a) selecting appropriate performance indicators and data collection procedures; (b) analyzing and reporting the information; and (c) using the information to improve services.

Posted to Web: July 30, 2014Publication Date: July 30, 2014

Debt in America (Research Report)
Caroline Ratcliffe, Brett Theodos, Signe-Mary McKernan, Emma Kalish, Additional Authors

Debt can be constructive, allowing people to build equity in homes or finance education, but it can also burden families into the future. Total debt is driven by mortgage debt; both are highly concentrated in high-cost housing markets, mostly along the coasts. Among Americans with a credit file, average total debt was $53,850 in 2013, but was substantially higher for people with a mortgage ($209,768) than people without a mortgage ($11,592). Non-mortgage debt, in contrast, is more spatially dispersed. It ranges from a low of $14,532 in the East South Central division to a high of $17,883 in New England.

Posted to Web: July 29, 2014Publication Date: July 29, 2014

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