Data Science Capabilities

Experts: Graham MacDonald, Jon Schwabish, Jessica Kelly, and Ben Chartoff

Data scientists at the Urban Institute serve as the bridge between cutting-edge technology and evidence-based policymaking.

We provide direct services (e.g., innovative technical programming, web and application development, and infrastructure development), technical assistance, professional development, and open source code to researchers and policy professionals.


Urban’s data science capabilities span three broad areas.

1. Information for policymakers
Data visualization:Urban’s developers and data scientists create innovative, accessible data visualizations to communicate evidence to policymakers.

Examples: The Prison Population Forecaster and Visualizing Trends for Children of Immigrants 

Open data:We publish unique and cleaned open data for the broader research and policymaking community.

Example: NeighborhoodInfo DC

2. Data analysis technology and methods for research
Big data:We developed and use the open source Spark for Social Science tool to analyze large datasets.

Machine learning: We apply machine learning algorithms to tag text and increase accuracy for prediction tasks.

Natural language processing: We use several advanced tools for processing unstructured text as data, such as Stanford CoreNLP.

3. Data collection technology

Automation and web scraping:We provide one-time and ongoing automated data collection services to collect nontraditional data for policy analysis.

Example: Financing Public Higher Education

Work with us

Interested in partnering with the data science team? Contact Graham MacDonald at