Structural Racism in America

Racial and ethnic inequalities loom large in American society. People of color face structural barriers when it comes to securing quality housing, health care, employment, education, and equal treatment in the criminal justice system. At Urban, we examine how historical and ongoing public policies, institutional practices, and cultural narratives perpetuate racial inequalities and constrain mobility for communities of color.

US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty

With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Urban Institute is supporting the US Partnership on Mobility from Poverty. Led by chair David Ellwood and executive director Nisha Patel, the Partnership consists of 24 leading voices representing academia, practice, the faith community, philanthropy, and the private sector. The Partnership’s definition of mobility has three core principles: economic success, power and autonomy, and being valued in community. Its collective aspiration is that all people achieve a reasonable standard of living with the dignity that comes from having power over their lives and being engaged in and valued by their community.

Inequalities Fact Sheets

Our fact sheets break down the different kinds of inequalities, drawing on Urban's vast collection of inequality research. Highlighting the most striking, important, or poignant numbers and stories from past projects, we examine the state of each kind of inequality in the US, asking how we got here and what can be done. 

Opportunity and Ownership

Wealth inequality has worsened over the past 30 years. Lack of wealth can handicap economic mobility and leave families exposed to financial risk, and growing inequality can weaken the economy.The federal government spends billions to support long-term asset-building, but those dollars mostly go to higher-income families. Looking beyond traditional antipoverty programs and taking a life-cycle approach to our research, Urban experts inform, analyze, and evaluate both current and proposed wealth-building programs and policies.

Low-Income Working Families

Many working families struggle to make ends meet, and many lack supports that would help them achieve their financial goals. Our researchers identify policy options to strengthen public and private work supports, promote meaningful employment for adults, and support positive outcomes for children.

Social Determinants of Health

Health disparities within the US are enormous, and they often arise from social factors, such as access to health care, quality of physical environment, income, and education. Health differences can appear early, increase over a person’s life, and disrupt ideal developmental trajectories and access to opportunity. At Urban, we dig deep to understand the complex causal pathways that span a person’s life. We also assess the potential of policies and programs both inside and outside the health care system to drive improvements in health.

Open Cities

With support from the Rockefeller Foundation, in 2016 Urban explored trends and differences in economic exclusion in cities across high-income countries, as well as strategies that cities have put in place to combat it.

Boys and Young Men of Color

Boys and young men of color face profound challenges growing up in America. They are twice as likely to grow up in poverty as non-Hispanic white men and much more likely to live in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. Understanding the larger context is essential to developing effective mechanisms for removing barriers that are created for boys and young men of color. In 2014, Urban released a body of research documenting the challenges faced by these boys and young men and identifying policies, system reforms, and programs that could put them on course for success.

Kids in Context

Our nation’s future prosperity hinges on our children’s capacity to enter adulthood fully equipped to become productive workers and citizens. Yet family instability and insecurity threaten the healthy development of children growing up in America today. The Kids in Context initiative identifies and documents critical gaps in systems designed to support families and children. Our researchers span the full range of policy systems, from child care to workforce development, from health care to housing, from nutrition to tax policy, and work across traditional academic and research boundaries to examine issues that are too often observed in isolation.

Neighborhood Change Database

Neighborhood boundaries can change from one census year to the next, making it hard for researchers to compare the same area over time. The Neighborhood Change Database (NCDB) reconciles those changing boundaries in census data from 1970 to 2010. Using the NCDB, Urban researchers have identified the most disadvantaged neighborhoods and the most advantaged neighborhoods, mapping geographic inequality.

Housing Discrimination

Despite long-standing laws guarding against discrimination, members of disadvantaged groups have a harder time finding a high-quality place to live in a high-opportunity neighborhood. In conjunction with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Urban has conducted several national paired-testing studies to evaluate how and if members of disadvantaged groups are treated differently in the housing market. Though progress has been made since the first national study in 1989, the data make it clear that America’s long journey to end housing discrimination remains unfinished.

Housing Assistance Matters Initiative

Decent and affordable housing has far-reaching consequences for people’s health, quality of life, and access to opportunities, but these consequences are not always well understood. To inform public debate about assisted housing policy and strengthen policy outcomes, Housing Assistance Matters uses multimedia to highlight research and analysis about the need for and benefits of well-managed public and assisted housing.