The years young people move from adolescence to adulthood—roughly ages 14 to 24—are full of immense potential. With a stable foundation, adolescents can thrive and successfully become healthy, productive young adults contributing to their communities.
We study how family, youth, and individual well-being is shaped by economic, social, and demographic trends, and how policies and programs can improve economic security, work, and child welfare and development.
Understanding how families are faring in the face of economic pressures, demographic change, and public health and social challenges is essential for policymakers and practitioners who oversee social services and programs. Our research explores the implications of these changes for people and policies and contributes to the evolving conversation about growing inequities and the persistence of structural racism.
- We combine rigorous quantitative methods and experimental demonstrations with the in-depth and nuanced insight that comes from qualitative research, and we apply this knowledge to capacity building. This approach grounds our work in data and a deep understanding of the complexity of people’s lives and the systems that support and invest in them.
- We work at the national, state, and local levels—observing programs on the ground, suggesting practical ways to streamline delivery, documenting the damaging effects of persistent childhood poverty, and assessing what Americans need to successfully work and support their families.
- Much of our research focuses on groups of people who face serious structural barriers to stability and success, such as children in poverty, young people disconnected from work and school, parents with low incomes, immigrants, and people most affected by racism. We examine the strengths, needs, and capacities of these populations, not only the programs and policies designed to help them.
Our work impacts how programs are designed to best improve people’s lives. For example, the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously approved a bill establishing baby bonds for children in families with low incomes, influenced by Urban research and testimony. The wealth-building program will create trust funds for these children with up to $1,000 contributions each year. The funds will accrue annually until the children reach age 18, when they can access the funds to pay for education, start a business, buy property, or invest in retirement. “This legislation has a critical racial equity impact, given that the median wealth of a white household in the District is 81 times that of a Black household.”