Critical Value Podcast
Critical Value is a podcast from the Urban Institute that explores issues of significance for research, policy, and people. We talk with experts and highlight the best available data and evidence to elevate the debate on topics that matter.
#56 Why Closing the Digital Divide Matters
July 9, 2020
Technology has transformed nearly every aspect of our lives, but technological innovations don’t always benefit everyone equally. And COVID-19 has revealed that this digital divide is even greater than we thought. Host Justin Milner speaks with Urban Institute researcher Alena Stern, chief information officer of Atlanta Gary Brantely, and Miguel Gamiño Jr., executive vice president for Global Cities at Mastercard, about why cities should care about tech equity and how they can achieve it.
#55 What We’re Reading (and Watching) to Help Reflect on Race, Power and Privilege
June 25, 2020
This week’s New York Times list of best-selling books shows a country reading all about race and racism. On this episode, Urban offers its own reading (and watching) list. You'll hear from Urban staff about the books, movies and documentaries they are reflecting on to contextualize anti-racism, structural racism, police brutality and privilege in this moment.
#54 How Can We Alleviate Food Insecurity During the Pandemic?
May 22, 2020
The pictures speak to the growing challenge of food insecurity in America: miles-long lines of people in cars waiting to receive emergency rations of food supplies. In the latest in a series of episodes on the pandemic, host Justin Milner speaks with Urban senior fellow Elaine Waxman and Jodi Tyson of Three Square Food Bank in Nevada about the rapidly increasing food insecurity levels for millions of Americans, lessons policymakers can learn from the Great Recession, and the ways food banks are stepping up as a critical frontline response to meet the high demand of food insecure people.
#53 How Can We Address Historic Unemployment Rates?
May 7, 2020
Since March 21, more than 30 million people have sought unemployment benefits—nearly one of every five workers. And the April jobs report coming out tomorrow will likely tell an even more distressing story of how the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting unemployment rates, job losses, and earnings. So what should we do? Host Justin Milner asks researchers Greg Acs, Jesse Jannetta, Heather Hahn, and Shena Ashley for their best ideas on to get Americans into jobs.
#52 Empowering the Next Generation through Higher Education
April 22, 2020
In the latest episode of Critical Value, Host Justin Milner speaks with former Urban Institute Board Member Freeman Hrabowski about how to make education more accessible, affordable, and effective for students of all backgrounds. Recognized by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in 2012, Hrabowski has served as the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, for 27 years. He has led UMBC to new heights as a national leader in STEM education and in graduating students from diverse backgrounds.
#51 How Can We Minimize Coronavirus Risk in Prisons and Jails?
April 14, 2020
Jails and prisons are ripe for rapid transmission of the coronavirus, putting residents, corrections staff, and the broader community at risk. In the latest in a series of podcast episodes on the pandemic, host Justin Milner talks to Brie Williams, physician and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, Johnny Perez, director of the US Prisons Program for the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Urban Institute policy associate Bethany Young.
#50 How Will the Coronavirus Spending Bill Provide Support During the Pandemic?
March 31, 2020
The $2 trillion economic relief package passed last week is larger than any other plan of its kind in modern history. Who does it help and how? In the latest in a series of podcasts on the pandemic, host Justin Milner talks to the Tax Policy Center’s Mark Mazur, and Urban’s Jack Smalligan and Wayne Vroman about what’s in the law and how it provides support payments to Americans and expands unemployment insurance.
#49 How Can We Alleviate Economic Insecurity During The Pandemic?
March 20, 2020
The coronavirus is already having widespread, dramatic effects on our economy – particularly those who are the most financially vulnerable. In the second in a series of podcasts on the pandemic, host Justin Milner speaks with Urban’s Donald Marron and the Tax Policy's Howard Gleckman about the economic impact of the pandemic and the most powerful economic solutions we can use to respond.
#48 How can we address housing insecurity during the pandemic?
March 19, 2020
The coronavirus poses a particular threat to people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. In the first of a series of podcasts on how the pandemic will affect vulnerable populations, host Justin Milner speaks with Mary Cunningham, vice president of the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and researcher Samantha Batko about how the pandemic impacts those experiencing homelessness, those on the edge of becoming homeless and what policymakers can do to help.
#47 Can the Research Process Be Hacked?
March 5, 2020
Research can take months—even years—to complete before publishing a final product. Is it possible to accelerate the research process? Recently, Urban researchers looked to hack the process by completing a research project in just one day. Host Justin Milner speaks with Christina Stacy and Brett Theodos to discuss their findings and the advantages and disadvantages that come with speeding up the research process.
#46 Sin Taxes Are Sweeping the States!
February 12, 2020
Alcohol, gambling, cigarettes, and much more—states are implementing “sin taxes” on a range of activities and behaviors these days. Host Justin Milner talks with Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center researchers Richard Auxier and Lucy Dadayan about how states are experimenting with sin taxes and key things policymakers should keep in mind when implementing them.
#45 How America Spends through the Tax Code
January 29, 2020
At $1.4 trillion per year, tax expenditures are an enormously important way our government spends money. But these provisions in the tax code, like the home mortgage interest deduction and the earned income tax credit, often receive less scrutiny than direct spending for programs like Medicare or Social Security. Speaking to host Justin Milner, Institute fellow Frank Sammartino and codirector of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center Eric Toder explain how tax expenditures work, who they benefit, and why taxpayers should pay more attention.
#44 Top of Mind: Exciting New Research Ideas for 2020
January 16, 2020
We're starting off the year with a new segment called "Top of Mind" exploring compelling research topics that will be a big deal in 2020. Host Justin Milner speaks with Urban's Vice president, Marge Turner, researchers Carlos Martín and Solomon Greene, and chief data scientist Graham MacDonald to get a sense of what top of mind for their work in the coming year.
#43 Elevate the Debate: How to Drive Fact-Based Policy Conversations
December 6, 2019
In a crowded and chaotic media environment, it can be hard for facts and data to break through and inform the important policy conversations that affect people’s everyday lives. Host Justin Milner talks with Urban’s chief communications officer Bridget Lowell, senior researcher and dataviz expert Jon Schwabish, and strategic communications director Kate Villarreal about how researchers and nonprofit leaders can become expert communicators and shapers of today’s policy debates.
#42 Youth Apprenticeship: Connecting High School Students to Work-Based Learning
November 14, 2019
Youth apprenticeships can expand career options, strengthen the nation’s workforce and promote economic mobility. Host Justin Milner discusses youth apprenticeship programs with Urban researchers Robert Lerman and Diana Elliott; Darla Burton, Wisconsin’s State Youth Apprenticeship Program Coordinator; and Kevin Yonker, winner of West Central Georgia’s Youth Apprenticeship Program.
#41 How Foundations are Looking to Increase Impact
November 4, 2019
Institutional philanthropy is in a remarkable era of expansion and experimentation. Foundations are looking to increase their impact in innovative ways and also contending with the implications of their increasing influence. Host Justin Milner speaks with Arnold Ventures President Kelli Rhee, Hudson Webber Foundation President Melanca Clark, Center for Effective Philanthropy President Phil Buchanan and Urban researcher Ben Soskis to survey the emerging landscape.
#40 How Workforce Systems Improve Access to Skills and Jobs
October 18, 2019
Even in a strong economy, not everyone has access to jobs that pay well. And sometimes there are disconnects between the skills employers need and the training people receive. One way cities are tackling this challenge is through their local workforce system: a network of services, organizations, and programs that work to support job seekers, current workers, and employers. Host Justin Milner talks with Urban researcher Amanda Briggs, Atlanta CareerRise founder Cinda Herndon-King, and JPMorgan Chase’s head of Workforce Initiatives, Global Philanthropy, Jennie Sparandara about how local leaders, philanthropists, and researchers are driving change through workforce systems.
#39 Measuring the Latinx ‘Tsunami’ and its Impact on the US
October 3, 2019
The United States is home to over 50 million of Hispanic/Latinx origin. Host Justin Milner talks with Urban’s Chief Methodologist Rob Santos and Matt Barreto, a political scientist from UCLA and co-founder of the polling and research firm Latino Decisions, about Latinx identity and how to accurately collect data to reflect their presence, particularly in the 2020 Census.
#38 Ripple Effects of our Shifting Immigration Policies
September 19, 2019
A new policy could have huge effects on who gets the chance to walk down the path to US citizenship – and who doesn’t. Host Justin Milner discusses how just the possibility of the ‘public charge rule’ is changing the daily lives of immigrant communities with Mary’s Center President and CEO Maria Gomez and Urban researchers Hamutal Bernstein and Dulce Gonzalez.
#37 Artificial Intelligence + Government
September 4, 2019
Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more prevalent in our daily lives – from facial recognition and public security to resume reviews and hiring. To kick off Season 2 of Critical Value, host Justin Milner has a live conversation Dr. Vivienne Ming, a neuroscientist and co-founder of Socos Labs, about the opportunities and challenges that AI may present in the coming years.
#36 Your Summertime Reading List
August 5, 2019
As the Fresh Prince once said, it is now: summer, summer, summertime! And what better way to take advantage than a dive into our summer reading list made just for you? On this episode, you’ll hear from various Urban staff about the books that can keep you company during these sunny summer days. Take a peek at the list below to see what nonfiction and fiction novels are the most compelling reads of the season (according to us).
#35 Raising the Income Floor for American Workers
July 22, 2019
Despite a growing economy, financial instability and economic anxiety have many Americans in a financial rut. Host Justin Milner talks with Chris Hughes of the Economic Security Project and researchers Elaine Maag and Len Burman from the Tax Policy Center about expanding and redesigning the Earned Income Tax Credit to provide a basic level of economic security for all working individuals.
#34 The Gathering Storm of Student Loans
June 26, 2019
It’s no secret that our nation’s total student loan debt has grown exponentially in recent years. Why is overall debt increasing? When is taking on student loan debt a good idea? And what are some emerging proposals to fix our growing debt balance? Host Justin Milner talks with Urban Institute researcher Matt Chingos about the balance of access to higher education and risk that comes with student loan borrowing.
#33 Research in the Next 50 Years
June 11, 2019
The Urban Institute recently marked its 50th birthday. To celebrate, we hosted an event thinking about the role of research to support changemakers for the next five decades. Host Justin Milner talks with Urban Institute president Sarah Rosen Wartell and preeminent leaders from different sectors about key challenges facing our society and the way forward.
#32 Bold Solutions to Improve Financial Well-Being
May 20, 2019
What policies could better lead to financial security for all Americans? Host Justin Milner discusses airhorn-worthy solutions like universal basic income, guaranteed jobs, and revamping social insurance with researchers Caroline Ratcliffe and Caleb Quakenbush.
#31 Lifelong Learning in a Changing Labor Market
May 6, 2019
The Class of 2019 is facing an ever-changing job market. How can we best prepare people with the skills they’ll need to join the workforce of tomorrow? And how do we figure out which skills employers actually want? Urban Institute researcher Shayne Spaulding and host Justin Milner discuss a reimagined postsecondary education and training system that would provide people with what they need throughout their entire working lives.
#30 What is Philanthropy’s Role in Cities?
April 22, 2019
What role can philanthropy play in making cities more equitable, so that people have a real say in how dollars flow into their communities? Host Justin Milner discusses philanthropy’s increasingly central role with Rip Rapson, president of the Kresge Foundation.
#29 How Denver Is Breaking the Homelessness-Jail Cycle, Part 2
April 3, 2019
Denver, Colorado adopted an uncommon approach, called pay for success, to address chronic homelessness. In the second of two episodes, host Justin Milner discusses how this collaborative project is playing out on the ground – and explores the evidence to see if it’s working.
#28 How Denver Is Breaking the Homelessness-Jail Cycle, Part I
March 20, 2019
Denver, Colorado is tackling chronic homelessness in an innovative way. The city is bringing together service providers, city officials, and others to focus on a single goal: getting people who are chronically homeless into housing and off the streets for good. In the first of two episodes, host Justin Milner takes a close look at this unique approach.
#27 The Green New Deal
March 11, 2019
If you have been listening to the news lately, three words may have jumped out at you: Green New Deal. So what’s it all about? In this episode, host Justin Milner talks with Urban Institute experts Carlos Martín and Christin Durham about what we know and don’t know about this proposal and how the evidence can play into the discussion.
#26 The First Step Act
February 7, 2019
In late 2018, Congress passed the first major criminal justice reform legislation in nearly a decade. So what is the First Step Act, and how will it impact the federal prison population? Host Justin Milner talks with researchers Nancy La Vigne and Julie Samuels from Urban’s Justice Policy Center and Matthew Charles, who has spent years studying sentencing law and is one of the first people to be released from prison thanks to the First Step Act.
#25 How Secure Is Employment at Older Ages?
January 24, 2019
People are now working longer and later in life – but new research shows that older workers are increasingly pushed out of longtime jobs. Host Justin Milner sits down with retirement expert Richard Johnson and ProPublica contributing reporter Peter Gosselin to talk about the landscape of the labor market and barriers facing older workers.
#24 Creating A Culture of Giving
December 19, 2018
Year-end giving is a big deal to nonprofits around the country—but the landscape of charitable giving is changing, as technology and social media in particular are making giving easier than ever. Host Justin Milner sits down with Shena Ashley and Brice McKeever of Urban's Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy to talk about creating a culture of giving that educates and engages everyone around the issues they're most passionate about.
#23 How Neighborhood Gun Violence Impacts Communities
December 5, 2018
Neighborhoods with high rates of gun violence also tend to be dealing with high rates of poverty and limited opportunity—and these systemic challenges can have long-term impacts. Host Justin Milner talks with researchers Jocelyn Fontaine and Elsa Falkenburger about the challenges facing communities that struggle with gun violence and a starting point for creating policies that are community driven and trauma informed.
#22 The Amazon Opportunity: Inclusive Growth and Shared Prosperity
November 14, 2018
This week’s Amazon HQ2 announcement represents a unique opportunity for the Washington region. Host Justin Milner talks with Urban Institute president Sarah Rosen Wartell and senior vice president Margery Turner about how best to take advantage of the moment and catalyze collaboration across the DC region to ensure inclusive growth that benefits all people across the income spectrum.
#21 Thinking Big about Big Data
November 8, 2018
The idea of “big data” can seem daunting, but it has the potential to solve some of the big problems facing our country. Host Justin Milner speaks with Graham MacDonald, Khuloud Odeh, and Jessica Kelly from Urban’s tech and data team about how big data is analyzed and interpreted and how it can help inform the world we live in for the better.
#20 Credit, Savings, and Financial Well-Being
October 24, 2018
The US is the wealthiest country in the world, but many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet. How can building credit and saving money lead to greater opportunity? Host Justin Milner speaks with Urban Institute Nittoli fellow Ricki Lowitz and senior fellow Caroline Ratcliffe about the path to good financial health.
#19 Don’t Give Up on Homeownership Just Yet
October 9, 2018
These days, it can seem like buying a home is becoming increasingly impossible for young people. But homeownership still matters when it comes to building wealth, and there are supports out there to help. Host Justin Milner talks with housing finance policy expert Laurie Goodman and communications expert Sheryl Pardo to break down the major obstacles to homeownership.
#18 How to Spend Bezos’s $2 Billion
September 26, 2018
With the creation of the Bezos Day One Fund, Amazon’s founder committed $2 billion to alleviate family homelessness and create and operate preschools in low-income areas. Host Justin Milner speaks with experts Mary Cunningham and Erica Greenberg about how to move the needle when addressing these two critical areas of need.
#17 Opportunity Zones and Community Development
September 12, 2018
Opportunity Zones could make a huge economic impact on disinvested communities across the country. Host Justin Milner speaks with researchers Brett Theodos and Brady Meixell on how this brand-new economic development initiative works, and how we’ll know if it’s truly successful.
#16 'The Children Are Our Future': Trends in Public Spending on Kids
August 15, 2018
Evidence shows that investing in children today can decrease poverty for the next generation of adults. Host Justin Milner speaks with researchers Heather Hahn and Cary Lou about the federal government’s current spending on kids, future projections for this spending, and what that means for America’s children.
#15 Evidence-Based Policymaking
July 25, 2018
How are lawmakers using evidence-based policymaking to ensure that taxpayer resources fund the most efficient and effective interventions? Host Justin Milner speaks with experts Demetra Nightingale and Ron Haskins about making decisions and crafting policy based on what’s been proven to work.
#14 Amazon and Economic Development
July 9, 2018
As Amazon conducts its search for a new corporate headquarters, cities are offering huge tax incentives to win over the retail giant—and ultimately stimulate local development. But are these tax incentives truly effective? What trade-offs are state and local governments making in these deals? Host Justin Milner speaks with state and local finance researcher Megan Randall to get a full picture of the economic and social effects of winning an Amazon bid.
#13 The Geography of Opportunity
June 20, 2018
In the US, where we live determines a lot about our lives—from the quality of education to the types of work opportunities available. How did we develop such wide disparities in access to opportunity? And what can we do to better support upward mobility in all communities? Host Justin Milner talks with urban policy and development experts Margery Turner and Solomon Greene about the status quo and how we can change it.
#12 Mobility from Poverty
June 6, 2018
How can we dramatically increase mobility from poverty in the United States? Nisha Patel, executive director of the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty at the Urban Institute, has spent the past few years trying to answer this question. Host Justin Milner chats with Nisha about her research and what kinds of interventions are possible to make real, lasting progress against persistent poverty in America.
#11 How Cities Can Promote Inclusive Growth
May 23, 2018
Economic growth doesn’t affect everyone in a city equally. Some groups experience great prosperity, while others get left out. But what if that’s not the narrative we have to buy into? Host Justin Milner speaks with Erika Poethig, head of the Urban Institute’s Research to Action Lab, about a new path forward for cities called “inclusive recovery.”
#10 Mapping Police Violence: A Q&A with Samuel Sinyangwe
May 8, 2018
If you don’t know Samuel Sinyangwe’s name, you definitely know his work. He is one of the creators of Mapping Police Violence, the most comprehensive database of people killed by police in the US since 2013. In this live conversation with Urban Institute staff, Sinyangwe discusses his approach to activism and research.
#9 Treating the Opioid Crisis
April 11, 2018
The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history, and it demands a multifaceted response. This week, we focus on one crucial facet: medical treatments for opioid addiction, including buprenorphine and methadone. These drugs are proven to help people in recovery—so why aren’t they reaching everyone who needs them? Host Justin Milner talks to health policy expert Lisa Clemans-Cope about the evidence behind these treatments, the barriers to access, and the evolution of the opioid crisis.
#8 The Fair Housing Act at 50
April 11, 2018
April 11 marks the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, which banned race-based housing discrimination in America. Yet today the goals of this landmark civil rights law remain largely unrealized, and the gap between black and white homeownership persists. This week, host Justin Milner talks to housing finance policy expert Alanna McCargo about why black homeownership has stalled and what can be done about it.
#7 Tax and Transfer
March 28, 2018
It’s that time of year again. With the April 17 filing deadline fast approaching, we take a closer look at the transfer of benefits through the US tax system. Host Justin Milner talks to tax policy expert Elaine Maag about how the American household has changed, how the tax code hasn’t, and what families can expect from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
#6 The Wealth Gap
March 14, 2018
The US economy seems to be in good health, but wealth inequality hasn't improved in the past 50 years. Host Justin Milner talks to Urban Institute expert Signe-Mary McKernan about the growing gap between rich and poor and the difference between wealth and income.
#5 What the New Tax Law Means for Businesses
February 27, 2018
The recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made dramatic, permanent changes to business taxation. Host Justin Milner chats with Mark Mazur, director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, to understand how businesses are affected by the new law.
#4 Budget 2019
February 14, 2018
On Monday the President released his much-anticipated budget request to Congress for 2019, and just last week he signed a budget deal from Congress that set spending levels for the next two years. How do these two items interact, and how will they affect government spending? Host Justin Milner speaks with three Urban Institute experts to unpack all the moving parts.
#3 What Is Single-Payer?
January 31, 2018
Support for single-payer health care is at an all-time high in the US. But what does it mean to have a single-payer system, and how would it work? Justin Milner talks to health policy expert Linda Blumberg about the details and trade-offs that would matter most in a single-payer plan
#2 Preparing for Disaster
January 16, 2018
From the hurricanes in Puerto Rico and Texas to the wildfires in California, the US faced disaster after disaster in 2017. Host Justin Milner sits down with Carlos Martín, an Urban Institute senior fellow, to discuss why these devastating events are happening so often and how federal, state, and local governments can better prepare for them.
#1 Rethinking Long Prison Terms
January 3, 2018
Over the past few decades, people have been spending more time in prison, and the lengthiest prison terms have been getting even longer. Host Justin Milner sits down with Ryan King, an Urban Institute senior fellow, to discuss the policies behind the problem. This episode features the voices of people who have served long prison terms, through audio excerpts from Urban’s interactive feature “A Matter of Time.”
January 1, 2018
A preview of our brand new podcast, with host Justin Milner and Urban Institute president Sarah Rosen Wartell.