The blog of the Urban Institute
December 17, 2021

10 Blog Posts That Elevated the Debate in 2021

December 17, 2021

When this year began, the country was focused on stabilizing communities and providing much-needed relief from the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as the year went on, vaccines became more widely accessible, additional aid began to reach people who needed it, and the national dialogue shifted toward recovery.

The dialogue on Urban Wire shifted, too. Urban Institute researchers explored the systemic barriers that threaten an equitable recovery; what it would take to avoid perpetuating long-lasting disparities and prioritize equity; and society’s opportunity to reimagine what was previously accepted as the status quo.

Researchers also analyzed the effectiveness of federal recovery policies, lifted up examples of resilient communities, and demonstrated how decisionmakers could apply lessons from here and abroad to strengthen our systems so we’re better prepared for future crises.

Here are 10 Urban Wire blog posts that elevated the debate in 2021:


To Truly Advance Racial Equity, City Leaders Need to Confront Racist Symbols

“Once racial equity—in both tangible and symbolic forms—is truly on the agenda, city leaders can make real progress toward creating a just and equitable world. But getting there will require concerted collective action by many actors, as well as sustained effort throughout the COVID-19 recovery process and beyond.”

Kimberlyn Leary


The Pandemic Response Led to an Unprecedented Increase in Federal Spending on Children

“In total, we estimate that pandemic response legislation enacted by May 2021 added more than $600 billion to projected spending on children between 2020 and 2027.”

“In a pandemic, as in other times, public investment in children is an investment in our nation’s future, improving children’s well-being and long-term prospects and making them more productive adults.”

Julia B. Isaacs and Cary Lou


How the World Sought to Protect Small Businesses during the COVID-19 Crisis

“As researchers embark in evaluating how these policies played out and their impact, we in the US have a chance to draw lessons from global experiences. These lessons could inform the development of a new system of support for small businesses that not only addresses the challenges of a crisis like the pandemic but also tackles preexisting issues, such as startup failure, lack of access to capital, and inequity, so businesses can survive and thrive.”

Jorge González-Hermoso


The American Families Plan Comes with a Modest Price Tag for Paid Leave but a Large Impact for Workers

“The COVID-19 pandemic has opened the nation’s eyes to how interconnected our work lives are with the ability to care for ourselves and our family members. Enacting a national paid leave program would not only expand access to benefits for a majority of US workers, but it would also address structural economic inequalities by improving access across income groups and occupations, ensuring the most vulnerable workers aren’t left behind.”

Chantel Boyens and Jack Smalligan


The Ways Transit Agencies Adapted during the Pandemic Can Inform an Equitable Recovery

 “In interviews, transit agency staff noted the pandemic altered their views and increased their concern for social equity. One agency CEO noted, ‘We recognized through COVID that transit is critical... [that it is] a lifeline service for people. We need to rethink the model.’”

“The pandemic forced society to understand how imperative public transportation is in a whole new way. Ensuring it is accessible and meets the needs of those who ride it most will be key to an equitable recovery.”

Jorge Morales-Burnett and Yonah Freemark


Uneven Recoveries Can Build Long-Term Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Housing

“The trend of mortgage delinquencies in Newark, as compared with the US overall, suggests that recessions can also have disparate long-term outcomes. In other words, uneven recoveries over successive economic recessions can contribute to persistent inequity by race and ethnicity.”

Daniel Pang and Michael Neal


Three Steps State Child Care Agencies Can Take to Support an Equitable Economic Recovery

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have had to balance working or seeking work, protecting their own and their children’s health and safety, and managing their children’s education despite child care programs being closed or offering reduced services. For Black and Latino families, these challenges have been more pronounced.”

“To promote an equitable economic recovery and better support families, policymakers can use the child care funds allocated in the recent COVID-19 relief package through the Child Care and Development Fund, as well as any additional funds that come from the COVID-19 relief package being debated in Congress, in three immediate ways.”

Gina Adams and Sarah Minton


Data Are Essential to Prioritizing Racial and Ethnic Equity in COVID-19 Vaccination

“Black and Hispanic/Latinx people have been less likely to receive the vaccine than white people, despite suffering higher overall COVID-19 case and mortality rates and being more likely to work jobs that put them at greater exposure riskMany factors have likely contributed to inequitable vaccine distribution.”

“As distribution continues, collecting, sharing, and using data on race, ethnicity, and other indicators—including for smaller groups such as Indigenous and Asian populations, whose data are often not separately analyzed—will be critical to reducing disparities in health outcomes during and after the pandemic.”

Joshua Aarons, Eva H. Allen, and Jennifer M. Haley


States Have an Opportunity to Strengthen College Grant Aid Programs

“Before the pandemic, many states could have benefited from updating their state grant programs for college students by increasing funding and simplifying programs, making them more transparent to students and families, and modifying eligibility criteria to ensure programs reach more of the students who depend on these programs to complete a college education. By making inequalities in our economy and our society more visible, the coronavirus crisis has also made the need for increased investment in our citizens’ futures more apparent.”

Sandy Baum


Three Ways Local Leaders Can Center Racial Equity and Inclusion in Economic Recovery

“Centering equity doesn’t always require creating new policies or programs. Local leaders can start with assessing and modifying existing policies that have disproportionately affected people of color and communities with low incomes and limited wealth. Typically, leaders created these policies without an explicit equity lens.”

Madeline Brown and Julia Payne


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Edith Arangoitia, 46, (who came as a companion to her elderly mother) is vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine by Doctor Galen Harnden at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, Massachusetts on February 16, 2021. - Chelsea, with a population of close to 40,000 people, is one of the hardest hit cities in the United States by Covid-19 with close to 8,000 infected people and over 200 deaths from the virus. The community is made up of close to 70 percent Latino or Hispanic people and also retains a large undocumented population. East Boston Neighborhood Health Center is working with La Colaborativa to vaccinate any person in the community that wants to be vaccinated and is working to get the message out in multiple languages. Signs are outside the building in Spanish and English. La Colaborativa is all ready an established institution in the community for helping and empowering immigrants in the city (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

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As an organization, the Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Experts are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research.