Spotlight: The Urban Institute
October 14, 2014 12:00 PM
Urban was founded in 1968 at the urging of President Lyndon Johnson to understand the problems facing America’s cities and assess the programs of the War on Poverty. At its founding, President Johnson promised that the Urban Institute would “give us the power through knowledge to help solve the problem that weighs heavily on the hearts and minds of all of us—the problem of the American city and its people.”
The first two Urban Institute presidents, Bill Gorham and Robert Reischauer, expertly stewarded this organization over four decades and expanded the scope of work beyond strictly urban issues. This growth continues today under the leadership of Sarah Rosen Wartell, who ensures the Institute continues to tackle the problems weighing most heavily on hearts and minds.
HISTORY AND PURPOSE
Today’s portfolio of issue areas has expanded significantly, ranging from the social safety net to health and tax policies; the well-being of families and neighborhoods; and trends in work, earnings, and wealth building. Urban is not just building knowledge in these areas. It is turning evidence into solutions. Urban engages decisionmakers with data and analysis with the goals of expanding opportunities for all, reducing hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthening the effectiveness of the public sector.
It’s all central to Urban’s mission to open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions through economic and social policy research—research that is high quality, rigorously conducted, independent, and deeply respected.
In many ways, the need for evidence-based answers is as acute today as it was at the time of Urban’s founding.Frustrated with noise and inefficiency in Washington, citizens are bringing a renewed appetite for unbiased information and evidence-based answers. Journalists are responding with new online platforms fueled by data-driven analyses. Beyond the Beltway, the demand for data and solutions is even greater. Still reeling from the effects of a sluggish economy, local and state leaders face critical decisions with limited resources.
At the same time, new technology has democratized data and demonstrated that evidence can help solve the country’s crises. Through new interactive tools and an enhanced digital platform, Urban’s findings are being placed directly in the hands of people who can use them to make better decisions.
Urban even has a new tagline and logo to showcase what we offer. A new tagline reflects the belief that Urban’s evidence can “elevate the debate” on social and economic policy. A vibrant new logo is built on a grid that evokes a city map or a graph. It speaks to our collection and analysis of data, and it emphasizes that “urban” remains central to the Urban Institute.
URBAN’S LEGACY OF IMPACT
The Institute does not take positions on issues. Its scholars are empowered to draw independent conclusions based on years of experience. They believe deeply in the power of evidence to improve lives and strengthen communities. And they have a long track record to show for it:
Urban’s scholars were among the first to warn of the subprime mortgage crisis; today, they are developing impartial analyses that show how best to rebuild the housing finance system.
In health care reform, Urban’s researchers have been called upon time and again for data that helped inform the crafting and implementation of the Affordable Care Act; today, they are tracking whether the law is working as intended.
And as baby boomers reach retirement age and younger generations struggle to find jobs and build wealth, Urban researchers are looking ahead to anticipate the challenges of a changing population. Their models have helped assess the impact of dozens of proposed changes to entitlement programs. Today, they answer such questions as: Will older Americans be able to retire? Is wealth inequality permanently widening the gap between generations and between races? How will cities evolve to meet the needs of young families and more diverse populations? By understanding how people and communities are changing, scholars can make informed recommendations to better serve them.
(L-R: Senior Vice President Margery Austin Turner, Executive Vice President John Rogers, and
President Sarah Rosen Wartell)
In addition to its president, Sarah Rosen Wartell, Urban’s leadership team consists of Executive Vice President John Rogers, Senior Vice President for Program Planning and Management Margery Austin Turner, and an esteemed group of experts who lead and guide Urban’s nine policy research centers.
For more information about the Urban Institute, visit the website or follow on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.