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#2023APPAM Spotlight: The Urban Institute


The #2023APPAM Fall Research Conference will feature some fantastic sponsors from across the policy research spectrum. Today we're shining a spotlight on The Urban Institute.

What is the mission of your organization?

The Urban Institute’s mission is to open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions through economic and social policy research.

What are your strongest areas of work?


Research, data, and analysis related to the following topics: 

  • Climate, Disasters, and Environment 
  • Crime, Justice, and Safety 
  • Economic Mobility and Inequality  
  • Education  
  • Health and Health Care  
  • Housing and Housing Finance 
  • Neighborhoods, Cities, and Metros  
  • Race and Equity 
  • Social Safety Net 
  • Taxes and Budget 
  • Wealth and Financial Well-Being  
  • Workforce


In the past year, what has been the most influential work from your researchers?


In the past year, a range of changemakers tapped Urban’s expertise to help strengthen their endeavors to advance racial and economic justice, bolster families’ financial security, and revitalize communities. From policymakers, practitioners, and advocates to philanthropy, corporations, and the media, these change agents relied on Urban’s research, data, and strategic advice to help move the needle toward a society where every person and community has the power to thrive. 

Our most influential work in the last year includes, but is not limited to, the following: 

  • An analysis that introduced the idea of basing student debt loan forgiveness on Pell Grant receipt, which would increase reach to Black and Latinx borrowers. President Biden’s 2022 announcement about student loan forgiveness included $10,000 in debt relief for Pell Grant recipients, modeled on Urban’s proposal. 
  • A five-year evaluation of Denver’s Supportive Housing Social Impact Bond initiative, which found that the supportive model had powerful effects on reducing homelessness, arrests, jail days, and emergency department visits. Urban’s findings led to a Treasury Department grant to significantly expand supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness in Denver.
  • The development of a groundbreaking framework for measuring whether federal legislation promotes or impedes equity in terms of race, gender, geography, and other dimensions. Urban’s framework provides the foundation for the legislative branch to consider embedding equity assessment in its policymaking process.

What makes your organization a great place to work?


Our work is an unqualified reflection of the great people we hire. Urban derives its strength from creativity, intellectual contribution and growth, and our differences in viewpoint, background, and experience. Accordingly, we welcome and celebrate diversity in all its forms: Urban is proudly multidisciplinary, multicultural, multiracial, academic and applied, and highly schooled and practically experienced.


How many early career professionals do you employ?


Urban currently employs approximately 150 early career professionals working in both our research & policy centers as well as part of our operations staff


What is your employee breakdown in terms of highest degree achieved?

  • 190 undergraduate  
  • 215 masters  
  • 117 doctorates (including MD/JD)

Where do you see your organization in 50 years?


The Urban Institute will continue to deliver evidence and solutions to changemakers who seek to advance upward mobility, create communities of opportunity, improve people’s well-being, and build a just and equitable society.


What is something unique about your organization?


Urban Institute experts study a variety of issues that affect the quality of people’s lives and the communities in which they live. Along with the depth and breadth of expertise we’ve built on diverse research topics over 55 years, what sets us apart is our commitment to advancing equity. This value is infused in everything Urban does, from how we conduct our research to how we work together as colleagues.


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