2012 President's Message

Sarah Rosen Wartell

For more than four decades, the Urban Institute has been producing data and analysis to inform some of the most important policy decisions affecting America's families, communities and economy. Now, with policymakers facing increasingly complex challenges in a resource-constrained environment, the Urban Institute's rigorous, evidence-based analysis is needed more than ever.

Working at the city, state, and national levels, Urban's researchers use sophisticated tools to diagnose the underlying causes of complex social and economic challenges, develop new policy options, assess the likely effects of alternatives, design and evaluate demonstrations, measure performance, and evaluate impact. We bring evidence to bear on complicated, charged questions. In other words, we help transform evidence and analysis into solutions that work.

This year, with the support of our partners and generous contributors like you, some of our most influential work included:

  • Launching a new Housing Finance Policy Center to add data and analytic capacity to inform the reform of critical mortgage market institutions in the wake of the financial crisis, drawing upon Urban's traditional strengths in housing and asset policy;
  • Hosting intimate conversations among policymakers, business leaders, researchers, and thought leaders that featured Congressman Paul Ryan in May and Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell Matthews in November;
  • Providing new evidence about how far behind younger generations have fallen when compared to their predecessors in acquiring their own assets;
  • Generating trusted and nonpartisan facts and analysis on the federal fiscal reality, including the impact of the shutdown and debt ceiling;
  • Developing an innovative data visualization tool to understand changing poverty by race in all U.S. metropolitan areas over the last three decades;
  • Launching the State and Local Finance Initiative to provide reliable, unbiased information and insights into the challenges state and local governments face;
  • Creating a compelling way to communicate what research tells us about the causes, incidence, and consequences of long-term unemployment and strategies to address its debilitating impact;
  • Identifying promising strategies to lower federal prison costs while protecting public safety;
  • Helping states understand the budget and health care implications of participating in the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion;
  • Supporting the District of Columbia Public Schools in making tough school closure and feeder pattern decisions;
  • Implementing a four-city demonstration known as HOST (Housing Opportunities and Services Together), which tests the feasibility and effectiveness of two generation intensive service models in distressed public and mixed-income housing communities;
  • Helping the media and public understand federal tax policy for nonprofits and the scandal about the IRS's scrutiny of 501(c)(4) organizations;
  • Debunking myths about who pays no federal income taxes; and
  • Evaluating competing estimates of immigration reform’s fiscal costs and benefits.

In the coming year, we will produce new research and analysis to inform a variety of emerging issues, with work including:

  • Exploring the social and economic payoffs from investing more effectively in children's healthy development;
  • Finding strategies for meeting the needs of the aging baby-boom generation - for housing, health care, and services - that also advance the prospects of younger generations rather than pitting young and old against each other;
  • Monitoring and evaluating implementation of the Affordable Care Act and assessing strategies for reducing health care costs;
  • Understanding the impact of expanding marriage equality on tax, health care, and public benefits for LGBTQ populations;
  • Assessing new workforce development and post-secondary education strategies, including changes to federal student aid policies;
  • Understanding the effect of a recovering housing market on job opportunities, including for the long-term unemployed and for immigrants;
  • Exploring potential effects of federal safety-net policies on economic productivity and growth; and
  • Helping our home city - the District of Columbia - understand the implications of various minimum wage policy changes under consideration.

We are also investing in expanding a truly unique set of tools - Urban's micro-simulation models - that allow us to answer "what-if" questions about reform proposals on fiscal, health, retirement, income and benefits, and more.

And we are rebuilding our IT infrastructure and digital communications to create a cutting-edge dissemination and engagement platform that will help relevant audiences more easily access insights and ideas from Urban's research.

Working together with our supporters and thought partners, we will continue to build the knowledge policymakers and public leaders need to diagnose problems, make smart decisions, and implement solutions that work for people, communities and governments. We look forward to sharing our work with you in 2014.

Thank you and best wishes for the New Year!

Sarah Rosen Wartell