Urban Institute Announces New Partnership to Develop Solutions for Social Mobility in America

CONTACT:
Laura Greenback, lgreenback@urban.org, (202) 261-5709

WASHINGTON, DC, February 5, 2016 — Today, the Urban Institute announced a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to establish The US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty, a new collaborative aimed at discovering permanent ladders of mobility for the poor.

The partnership will be made up of 24 leading experts, advocates, and academics from across the country. Over the next two years, the group will identify breakthrough solutions that can be put into action by philanthropy, practitioners, and the public and private sectors. The initiative will also be a resource for the field: all its work will be public, sharing insights and ideas with those poised for action.

The partnership will uncover the country’s most successful programs, collaborate with outside innovative organizations to test promising new models, and identify new approaches to improving social mobility in America. It will be chaired by well-known poverty and social policy scholar David Ellwood, the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University, who also served as Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government from 2004 to 2015.

“Working with communities across the country, we will develop an action plan that builds on what works and deploys new ideas,” said Ellwood. “Our approach will be geographically agnostic and politically nonpartisan; our findings will be transparent and available to all. We will consult widely, seeking out diverse voices and expertise as we examine the causes of persistent poverty and stagnant mobility. Rather than producing a single report, this partnership will regularly release its findings and ideas as we do our work. We hope that as a result, we can reset our country’s approach to social mobility.”

The partnership will meet for the first time later this spring. Drawing from research and evidence, the partnership will define a set of priority issues and questions to guide its work. Through 2016 and 2017, members will learn from communities and families living in poverty, from the nation’s leading service providers and advocates for the poor, from a wide network of experts, and from the latest research findings.

Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute, noted: “The partnership is about putting the country’s best ideas into practice and learning from diverse voices, experiences, and research. The approach of the partnership will be grounded, pragmatic, and action-oriented.”

The partnership will operate independently of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed $3.7 million toward the effort. It also will be independent of any other potential private or public funders. The partnership will be staffed and supported by the Urban Institute, but it will engage other institutions and experts.

“This partnership is being created to serve as a resource for the field that we hope will provide insight, analysis, and expertise around causes of persistent poverty and approaches to improving mobility out of poverty,” said Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "While education is one of the most important interventions for improving mobility in the United States—and the focus of our investments here—it is not the only intervention that is needed to improve opportunity. We look forward to working with the partnership to better understand those factors, in addition to education, that shape long-term outcomes for children, families, and individuals."

The list of partnership members is as follows:

David T. Ellwood, Chair, is the Scott M. Black Professor of Political Economy at the Harvard Kennedy School and a labor economist who focuses on poverty, welfare, and family structure change.

Elisabeth Babcock is President and CEO of the Crittenton Women’s Union, a Boston-based national nonprofit organization whose mission is to move families out of poverty and help other organizations do the same.

Joshua Bolten, Managing Director of Rock Creek Global Advisors, served in government for 20 years, including all 8 years in the George W. Bush White House: first as Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy, then as Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and finally as Chief of Staff.

Arthur C. Brooks is President of the American Enterprise Institute and the author of 11 books and hundreds of articles on topics from economics and free enterprise to human happiness.

William J. Bynum is Chief Executive Officer of HOPE, a credit union, loan fund, and policy center dedicated to improving lives in the Delta and other distressed parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Raj Chetty, recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the John Bates Clark medal, is a Professor of Economics at Stanford University and Codirector of the Public Economics group at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

The Reverend Luis Cortés, Jr, the founder, President, and CEO of Esperanza, was featured as one of Time’s “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America” and has won numerous awards for community, economic development, and advocacy work.

Jennifer L. Eberhardt, a 2014 MacArthur Fellow, is a social psychologist and faculty member at Stanford University whose research focuses on racial bias and stereotyping, especially in the context of criminal justice.

Kathryn Edin, the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, uses mixed-method approaches to provide new insight into the lives of America’s urban poor.

Robert Greenstein is the founder and President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which focuses on programs and policies to reduce poverty and improve conditions for people with limited means, and a 1996 MacArthur Fellow.

Cheryl L. Hyman is Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, where she launched a Reinvention of City Colleges in 2010 that has since doubled the graduation rate.

Anthony B. Iton is Senior Vice President for Healthy Communities at The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation whose mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities.

Monica C. Lozano, Chairman and CEO of ImpreMedia (Ret.), is a recognized business leader with a 30-year record of accomplishment leading diversified media organizations, as well as the current Chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of California.

Lawrence Katz is the Elisabeth Allison Professor of Economics at Harvard University and a research associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research, where he studies labor economics and the economics of social problems.

N. Gregory Mankiw is the Robert M. Beren Professor of Economics at Harvard University and an active participant in academic and policy debates whose textbooks, Macroeconomics and Principles of Economics, have sold over 2 million copies and been translated into more than 20 languages.

Ai-jen Poo, a MacArthur Fellowship recipient and one of Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012, is the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and codirector of the Caring Across Generations campaign.

john a. powell, currently the Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley, has led the development of an “opportunity-based” model that connects affordable housing to racialized spaces in education, health, health care, and employment.

Cecilia Rouse is the Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where she researches labor economics with a focus on the economics of education.

Juan Salgado, President and CEO of Instituto del Progreso Latino, was awarded a 2015 MacArthur Fellowship for his community leadership and innovative approach to education in the Latino immigrant community.

Eldar Shafir is the William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, Director of Princeton’s Center for Behavioral Science and Public Policy, and Scientific Director at ideas42, a behavioral science lab.

Marta Tienda researches ethno-racial differences in social inequality as the Maurice P. During ’22 Professor of Demographic Studies and a Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University.

Jeremy Travis, President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, is an expert on criminal justice and launched a national research program on prisoner reentry at the Urban Institute.

Roxane White was appointed President and CEO of Nurse-Family Partnership in 2014 after spending more than 20 years developing programs in California and Colorado for homeless and runaway youth.

Hirokazu Yoshikawa, University Professor at New York University, is a community and developmental psychologist who studies the effects of policies and programs related to immigration, early childhood development, and poverty reduction on youth development in the United States and in low- and middle-income countries.


The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban scholars have conducted research and offered evidence-based solutions that improve lives and strengthen communities across a rapidly urbanizing world. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the effectiveness of the public sector.