American Transformation Project

a group of students learning in a classroom

Throughout America’s history, people and institutions have created and perpetuated inequities in health, education, justice, and employment systems. As the nation’s racial and ethnic demographics rapidly change, these persistent inequities—if left unaddressed—will harm young Americans even more than previous generations. But that unequal future isn’t inevitable. Through innovative efforts, philanthropy can be an engine for powering public and private support to eliminate inequities and create a just society for the next generation.

The American Transformation Project (ATP) is a new research program at the Urban Institute designed to advance racial equity and dismantle structural racism, with a focus on Black, Latinx, Native American, and Asian young people in the United States. The ATP will leverage the Urban Institute’s research capacities to inform funder practices in four key areas: education, employment, justice, and healthy development. By combining substantive research knowledge with the expertise of leaders in philanthropic practice, advising, and strategy, we aim to convene a lively community of engaged, forward-looking funders who envision an equal future for America’s young people.

What We Know

By adopting and advancing racist policies in areas across society—such as health care; employment and wages; education financing and K–12 curriculum; and surveillance, policing, and sentencing guidelines—institutions have consistently enforced and defended discriminatory policies and practices that directly harm Black, Latinx, Native American, and Asian people.

Generation Z, consisting of young people between the ages of 5 and 24 (born after 1996), is already the most diverse generation in the United States. In 2018, almost half (48 percent) of Gen Z were not white. Researchers project that by 2045, the United States will become a “minority white” nation, with Latinx (24.6 percent), Black (13 percent), Asian (7.9 percent), and multiracial populations (3.8 percent) comprising the majority of the country.

What We're Doing

The ATP aims to inform funder practices by providing evidence-based research and recommendations to address the urgent, evolving needs of America’s young people. The ATP will act as facilitator, convener, and partner for philanthropy and other changemakers as we seek to advance this critically important work.

By expanding philanthropic imagination to cultivate philanthropic voice, engage in transformative advocacy, and supplement grantmaking to create the conditions for a more equitable, racially and ethnically diverse nation, we can test new approaches, push the boundaries on philanthropy’s role in racial justice, and identify actionable solutions to racial inequity. We must be engaged now, before demographic changes and the corresponding inequities irreparably harm the trajectory of the next generation of young adults.

Through a series of quarterly meetings and other activities with funders and philanthropic leaders, Urban Institute leaders and researchers will facilitate peer learning opportunities designed to accomplish the following:

  • build the knowledge base on the unique challenges and opportunities facing America’s increasingly diverse young people
  • develop new ways of thinking about philanthropy’s role in advocacy and civic engagement and spurring public investments
  • strengthen efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy and through philanthropy’s engagement with historically marginalized communities
  • identify new ways for philanthropy to move beyond traditional grantmaking to catalyze racial justice and expand opportunities for the most diverse generation of Americans

The ATP’s work will focus initially on the impact of demographic shifts and inequity in the American South and West. Many areas in these regions are already majority communities of color, and these regions could generate lessons for the whole country. 

Learn More

Memos

To illustrate some of the issues encompassed by the American Transformation Project, emerging researchers at Urban conducted original research related to the initiative’s four focus areas: health, justice, employment, and education. Their research briefs present new insights on youth of color, with a particular focus on young people in the southern and southwestern United States, and identify the role of philanthropy in advancing equitable solutions.

Case Studies

The following case studies identify urgent research questions and areas that are ripe for inquiry. Urban researchers have noted data-related challenges that require additional attention in order to address pressing issues related to racial equity and justice.

Urban Wire Posts

Researchers

Project Leads: Faith MitchellLesLeigh Ford, and Shena Ashley

Contributing researchers: Clara Alvarez Caraveo, Luis Basurto, Claire Boyd, Amanda Briggs, Libby Doyle, Dulce Gonzalez, Azhar Gulaid, Ian Hecker, Constance Hull, Jahnavi Jagannath, Kierra B. Jones, Colette Marcellin, Michelle Menezes, Susan Nembhard, Clare Wang Pan, Travis Reginal, Nathan Sick, Sonia Torres Rodríguez, and Fay Walker

Events

For more information, contact us at AmericanTransformationProject@urban.org.