About Urban

How We Work

When it comes to advancing the well-being of people and places across the United States, the Urban Institute holds a unique advantage: our capacity to produce new knowledge about social and economic issues and to rigorously mine the evidence for insight.

But facts alone don't change lives. That’s why our experts translate the facts for diverse audiences, apply them to real-world problems to find solutions, and share them in accessible ways with policymakers at every level, as well as with business and philanthropic leaders, advocates, practitioners, and the people and communities most directly affected. Our work improves their critical decisions and therefore has a direct impact on families and communities around the country.

Urban offers insight and a wide range of evidence-informed products, services, and partnerships.

Research and Analysis

Research and Analysis

We answer the tough questions facing today’s policymakers, philanthropists, and practitioners.

What’s happening, and why?

Urban’s experts gather and analyze quantitative and qualitative data to measure and explain persistent social and economic challenges as well as emerging trends.

What if?

We use sophisticated microsimulation models that test new policy ideas, explore alternative futures, and estimate how demographic, behavioral, and policy changes might affect people and communities.

What works?

Our researchers design and conduct randomized controlled trials, rapid-cycle evaluations, and other research methods to evaluate how policies and programs work in the real world.

How is your organization doing?

Urban helps nonprofits and public agencies test promising new program designs, determine program and service effectiveness, and measure returns on investment. Our experts also design indicators and data-collection strategies to support continuous learning.

How are people and communities affected?

We amplify the voices, experiences, and perspectives of the people and communities most affected by social and economic policies by including them in how we design, implement, and interpret our research.

Data Science

Data Science

We apply cutting-edge processes and systems to analyze data for new insights.

Harnessing new technologies

Our data scientists capitalize on recent technological advances to analyze massive datasets at minimal cost using cloud-based computing techniques.

Leveraging data from diverse sources

Our analysts provide real-time insights into policy challenges by combining traditional and emerging data sources with innovative processing techniques, such as web scraping and machine learning.

Using data responsibly

Urban develops and applies the latest tools and technologies to assure that data are accurate and representative—particularly for historically disadvantaged groups—and that people’s privacy is protected.

Democratizing data

We strengthen transparency and decisionmaking by cleaning and consolidating disconnected datasets and providing useful, open data to governments, community-based organizations, and the public.

Strategic Advising and Assistance

Strategic Advising and Assistance

We collaborate with various stakeholders to tackle their most pressing problems with fact-based solutions and insights.

Crafting new solutions

Drawing on the best available evidence, Urban partners with decisionmakers and practitioners to develop innovative solutions to economic and social challenges.

Counseling philanthropy

Urban advises foundations and individuals on successful investment strategies by providing evidence-based guidance on promising interventions and trends. We also help new and established philanthropists understand the evolving nonprofit ecosystem and identify new areas for grantmaking.

Achieving better outcomes

Through webinars, in-person trainings, consultations, site visits, and technical assistance, Urban builds the capacity of nonprofits, practitioners, and local leaders to use data to target and evaluate their interventions.

Putting evidence into practice

Our experts develop tools and guidance that translate evidence into recommendations for practitioners. We also build and support communities of practice that connect researchers with nonprofit-, private-, and public-sector leaders.

Equipping researchers with new skills

Through tutoring in data visualization and digital communications, through sessions with journalists, and more, we teach researchers at nonprofits and universities how to bring insights to new audiences and navigate the media and policy landscapes.



We bring people together to discuss new evidence, share promising practices, and explore how policy solutions play out in real life.

Building knowledge across sectors

Urban hosts conversations among researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and advocates that provide diverse perspectives on evidence and practice along with fresh insights about how to tackle today’s policy challenges.

Sharing evidence with broader audiences

We convene high-level newsmakers in our Washington, DC, headquarters and around the nation for events that are accessible through live streams and recorded webcasts.

Spotlighting current debates through art

Urban hosts engaging conversations with of-the-moment artists and authors through film screenings, book releases, and other events that connect policy decisions to communities and bring evidence to life.

Strategic Communication

Strategic Communication

We combine data with compelling stories to show broader audiences why and how facts matter.

Data visualization

With best-in-class data visualization, Urban creates maps and other interactive features that bring statistics to life and allow users to customize information and zero in on the places and issues they care about.


We capture the experiences of people at the heart of our research—often in their own words—showing the depth of social and economic problems, the impact of policy changes, and the solutions that are making a difference in people’s lives.

Digital platforms

Foundations and public agencies turn to Urban for our expertise in building tailored and innovative digital products that combine sophisticated data collection and visualization, interactive features, multimedia, and narrative storytelling.

Tailored outreach 

Urban develops and executes strategies that exploit the full range of media channels to connect our products to their intended audiences, from national opinionmakers to local community leaders.

Integrated Project Management

Integrated Project Management

We manage and execute multifaceted, multiyear initiatives that build capacity and shape debate nationwide.