The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
December 28, 2017

2017 in review: Urban Wire blog posts that made an impact

December 19, 2017

Over the past year, tumultuous events in the political and natural landscape raised pressing questions for America's future. How will potentially sweeping changes to the health care system, tax policy, and federal antipoverty programs affect millions of Americans? How will more frequent and severe natural disasters alter the face of our communities, and how can we build our resilience? 

On Urban Wire, Urban Institute researchers nimbly responded to these questions as they arose, offering analysis from previous research, outlooks for the future, and solutions we can start implementing today.

Why the proficiency-versus-growth debate matters for assessing school performance

Matt Chingos: "But the problems with using proficiency to assess school performance go beyond those created by an arbitrary threshold. Measuring average student performance reflects not only how much students are learning at school but also the knowledge they brought when they enrolled. Growth measures go a long way toward correcting for that by examining the progress students make while enrolled at a given school."

Less segregated communities aren’t only more inclusive. They’re more prosperous. 

Mark Treskon: "But what are the costs of segregation on metropolitan regions? How does segregation diminish economic vibrancy in a region and its residents’ earnings potential?

More inclusive, or less segregated, regions have higher average incomes and educational attainment and lower homicide rates." 

Are gains in black homeownership history? 

Laurie Goodman, Jun Zhu, and Rolf Pendall: "Gains in black homeownership have been hard won, which amplifies our concern that in the last 15 years, black homeownership rates have declined to levels not seen since the 1960s, when private race-based discrimination was legal.

Unless this setback to black homeownership is addressed, black families will rent for more years before homeownership than they did a few years ago." 

What could happen if the Violence Against Women Act is defunded?

Kelly Walsh and Janine Zweig: "The funding doesn’t just assist victims. It also assists law enforcement and prosecutors by providing training and enhancing resources for investigation and prosecution of these violent crimes. If these funds become unavailable to states and local communities, it could stifle efforts to address these crimes."

How to stabilize nongroup insurance markets in four easy steps

Linda Blumberg and John Holahan: "Some people may blame fundamental characteristics of the ACA for this instability, others may blame recent administrative actions and legislative uncertainty, and others some combination of these; nevertheless, there are straightforward, low cost ways to address these problems.

Nongroup markets can be improved enormously with these four steps, which would require only a modest federal investment and which a broad array of policymakers across the political spectrum would find acceptable."

Visualizing Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Houston’s neighborhoods 

Sarah Strochak and Bhargavi Ganesh: "Harvey’s aftermath puts an enormous hurdle in front of all homeowners and renters but will be a particular setback for low-income, minority families recovering from the 2008 housing bust. As policymakers consider the path to rebuilding, here are five facts to keep in mind about the storm’s impact."

LeBron James says “being black in America is tough.” He’s correct. 

Justin Milner and Steven Brown: "Although there are several important points embedded in James’ statement, his comment on wealth has attracted the most scrutiny. Is it true that even wealthy black Americans have a tougher time?

The answer is yes.

Just look at a few key indicators in housing, health, justice, and labor."

There is no refugee crisis here: How the United States’ refugees differ from Europe’s 

Hamutal Bernstein: "These perceptions of the US refugee program have developed in close proximity to two distinctly international phenomena: the global migration crisis and a spate of recent terror attacks in Europe. The discourse surrounding these international issues has been cut and pasted onto the US refugee system, leading to public confusion over the question of who exactly is a “refugee?”

One in five families will lose resources under administration’s proposed changes to safety net programs

Elaine Waxman: "While our findings show that those earning less than $10,000 are particularly vulnerable, the impact of cuts to millions of families into the $30,000 income range is really striking. These are the working poor. We need to realize that these cuts could affect a lot of people who are participating in the economy.”

If we all believe in the American dream, why is DACA controversial?

Diana Elliott: "Why have we not eagerly embraced the success stories of these young people as part of our country’s collective narrative? Perhaps our collective belief in the American dream is fractured—or worse. Some Americans may believe the dream is available to some but not to others."

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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.