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.
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.
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 high of $14,532 in the East South Central division to a low of $17,883 in New England.
Roughly 77 million Americans, or 35 percent of adults with a credit file, have a report of debt in collections. These adults owe an average of $5,178 (median $1,349). Debt in collections involves a nonmortgage bill—such as a credit card balance, medical or utility bill—that is more than 180 days past due and has been placed in collections. 5.3 percent of people with a credit file have a report of past due debt, indicating they are between 30 and 180 days late on a nonmortgage payment. Both debt in collections and debt past due are concentrated in the South.
Thirty-five percent of adults have a debt in collections reported in their credit files, an Urban Institute study shows. Nevada, hit hard by the housing crisis, tops the list of states: 47 percent of people with a credit file have reported debt in collections. The state also has the highest average collections debt. Twelve other states (11 in the South) and the District of Columbia top 40 percent.
Adopting open data principles is difficult in cities undergoing economic hardship, but the benefits of doing so are great. In Detroit, Data Driven Detroit (D3), a local National Neighborhood Indicators partner, has worked to provide local data to the community free of charge. Though they have encountered institutional and cultural barriers, D3 has advanced their cause through partnership with local organizations and government. With new funding opportunities and new movement on open data by the city, D3 is making data meaningful and accessible, as well as advocating for open data and data-driven decisionmaking by community organizations and government.