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Our model is designed to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have the opportunity to succeed.


Barriers to Opportunity

Structural Racialization

Download or View Position Paper A Systems Approach to Understanding the Causes and Consequences of Racial Inequity Racial inequity can persist without racist intent The word “racism” is commonly understood to refer to instances in which one individual intentionally or unintentionally targets others for negative treatment because of their skin color or other group-based physical characteristics. Research conducted by the Kirwan Institute strongly suggests that this individual-centered view of racism is too limited. If we look at our society as a complex system of organizations, institutions, individuals, processes, and policies, we can see how many factors interact to create and perpetuate social/economic/political arrangements that are harmful to people of color and to our society as a whole. Housing, education, and health are just a few examples of how material and symbolic advantages and disadvantages are still often distributed along racial lines. For example, think about our suburbs. The federal government accelerated migration to the suburbs by subsidizing home mortgages through the National Housing Act of 1934. But through the 1950s, the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) underwriting manuals expressly warned that Blacks were considered “adverse influences” on property values. The agency instructed its personnel not to insure mortgages on homes unless they were in “racially homogenous” White neighborhoods. Under these guidelines, the FHA actually refused to lend money to – or underwrite loans for – Whites if they moved to areas where people of color lived. Private lenders adopted similar policies, and this system became part of the “free market.” The U.S. property appraisal system created in the 1930s tied property value and eligibility for government loans to race. Thus, all-White neighborhoods received the government’s highest property value ratings and White people were ...

Understanding Implicit Bias

Producing Social and Racial Justice

Health Equity Mapping Initiatives in Kansas City
Assisting in the Development of Equitable Civic Engagement Plan in Detroit
Partners with AALF on Regional Transformative Change

Now on the verge of a regional and national movement, the African American Leadership Forum (AALF) aims to change the conditions for African Americans in the Twin Cities, Des Moines, Portland, Seattle and Tacoma. While the challenges that face individual communities often require individual solutions, the region faces similar challenges and opportunities in education, housing, and economic development, health and wellness, leadership and civic engagement, and criminal justice. The Kirwan Institute worked with AALF site staff and volunteers to strategize both local and regional change. Supported by a grant from the Northwest Area Foundation.

Connecting Youth to Opportunity in Merced, CA
Civic Engagement and Opportunity Mapping in the Mississippi Gulf Region

The Institute is wrapping up local technical assistance, opportunity mapping and facilitation of civic engagement to inform the HUD SCI grant in coastal Mississippi. We will continue our involvement in the region to provide training and support for use of the resulting opportunity maps by GRPC and area stakeholders. Learn more about our HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative

Provided Analysis to Aid Equity Issues in Puget Sound, WA

The Institute provided analysis and assistance with the region’s opportunity mapping activities to aid equity issues in the development of a regional sustainable development plan. This work prompted housing authorities for Seattle, Tacoma and King County to consider opportunity maps for ways to improve their voucher programs – for example, by increasing voucher rates in high opportunity areas or making housing more affordable in those areas. This is also the first work to be represented on the Institute’s web site as an eReport . The Puget Sound analysis has received widespread acclaim both within the Puget Sound region but also has drawn the attention of HUD and the White House as a model example of the Sustainable Communities Initiative supporting equity and inclusion.

Diversity Data for Kids with Northeastern University

The Institute provides research support for this two - year collaboration with Dolores Acevedo Garcia and the Urban Health Institute at Northeastern University. The goal of this work is to create a national website providing analysis and resources focusing on children’s access to opportunity in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. This work involves a massive effort to collect and harmonize early childhood education and public education data from departments of education and human services in more than 40 states.

Fair Housing Assessment for Austin, TX

This work is a collaborative effort between Green Doors, an Austin nonprofit to house the homeless, and the Institute. The work is also driven by a committee of other partners, including The City of Austin, Travis County, The Housing Authorities of the City of Austin and Travis County, and The Capital Area Council of Governments (CAPCOG), whose participation as a Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) grantee will pull many of these findings into their regional Fair Housing and Equity Assessment. The Institute partnered with the City of Austin in 2007 to produce the first report on opportunity in the Austin area, which now affords us the chance to assess the dynamics of opportunity by analyzing how aspects of opportunity have changed over the ensuing years using a series of maps based on a Change Index—the first time we have looked at opportunity longitudinally in this way. View Report Learn more about our HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative

Equity Assessment for Lakota tribe in Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

The Institute is working together with PolicyLink to provide mapping support for an equity assessment, to be used by the Lakota tribe to apply for HUD funding for reservation housing. We are also providing expert advice as the tribe establishes a regional planning office. Independent of the equity assessment work, the Institute has also offered to provide GIS support to the tribe’s land office to support the recent Cobell settlement, which will bring $126 million in settlement funds for the tribe to acquire and consolidate split-interest lands (land holdings that, through generations of Native American family inheritance, now effectively have dozens or even hundreds of beneficial owners). This represents an historic opportunity for the tribe to expand its tribal land holdings and potentially generate additional revenue through leases and other land use agreements. Learn more about our HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative

The Geography of Opportunity in the Greater New Orleans/Baton Rouge Super Region

This work is a collaboration between the Institute and the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF) to identify and understand the geography of opportunity across the New Orleans/Baton Rouge super-region. As in Houston-Galveston, the NOLA/BR super-region encompasses a diversity of economic bases and community types and so lends itself to a typology approach. In addition, GNOF and their stakeholders have identified several key advocacy issues that can be informed and supported by the opportunity maps and engagement process. Learn more about our HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative

Houston-Galveston Fair Housing Assessment

The Institute is working in collaboration with H-GAC to facilitate an opportunity mapping initiative in the 13-county Texas Gulf Coast planning region to inform the region’s Fair Housing Equity Assessment (FHEA). At 12,500 square miles, the H-GAC service area is larger than 9 other states’ total areas and poses a challenge for opportunity mapping, both in scale and in geographic and economic diversity. For this reason, we are exploring with H-GAC the development of a meaningful typology of sub-regions for opportunity. View Report

Responding to the Parents Involved Supreme Court Decision

The Jefferson County, KY (Louisville) school district was directly implicated in the Parents Involved Supreme Court decision on racial diversity plans in public schools. The Kirwan Institute advised the school district in the wake of the Parents Involved Supreme Court decision. The district utilized Kirwan Institute research and conceptual models for student assignment in designing its current school diversity program that uses a plan based on geography, income and race to produce diverse successful schools.

School Assignment Planning, Montclair, New Jersey

All school districts that utilized race-based school assignment plans are potentially impacted by the Parents Involved decision. The Institute has worked with several districts to review, assess, and design different strategies for producing sustainable, diverse and successful schools. In New Jersey, the Montclair district recently utilized the model proposed by the Institute in the redesign of its magnet schoolbased student attendance policy, utilizing school performance, poverty and race in its new student assignment plan. Final Report - Montclair Public Schools: Focus Groups

Vacant Property Reform in Detroit

In a city inundated with tens of thousands of vacant properties, advocates in the Detroit region have long pushed for a land bank program to redevelop vacant land and revitalize neighborhoods. Working with MOSES (a Gamaliel chapter in Detroit), the Institute provided extensive assistance to aid the land bank advocacy efforts in the Detroit region. After several years of extensive effort by advocacy organizations, both Wayne County, MI and the City of Detroit have created new land bank programs. These new programs come at a critical juncture in Detroit’s history, with vacant property challenges escalating due to the foreclosure crisis.

Neighborhood Revitalization in Columbus, OH

Working as a consultant to the Columbus Foundation, the Institute has aided the foundation in designing its neighborhood revitalization strategy for Columbus, Ohio. In addition, the strategies and recommendations produced by the Institute have informed the local United Way’s effort to redesign its neighborhood revitalization program. Ideally, these two initiatives will direct significant funds into neighborhood revitalization in Columbus’s marginalized communities.

Thompson v. HUD and Fair Housing in Baltimore

Working with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the Maryland ACLU on behalf of more than 15,000 public housing residents represented in a class action lawsuit, the Institute has helped design a remedial fair housing strategy for the Baltimore region. The Institute’s opportunity mapping and opportunity based housing model was utilized to design a 7,000 housing unit fair housing program in response to a Fair Housing Act violation found against the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. At this time, advocates are awaiting the US District Court Judge’s final ruling on the proposed remedy.

Massachusetts Opportunity Communities Initiative

In response to a state level opportunity mapping initiative in Massachusetts, the State has recently embraced a new subsidy program to develop affordable rental housing in high opportunity areas. The Massachusetts Housing Partnership (a State affiliated nonprofit affordable housing entity) has committed $5 million in zero percent interest, second mortgage financing to support affordable rental housing in high opportunity areas. The agency utilized the opportunity maps produced by Kirwan (in addition to our housing model) in deciding which communities were eligible for the targeted funds. In addition to this new program, legal aid organizations are also considering an “adopt a zip code” program to target legal aid resources into opportunity deprived areas identified in the analysis.

Connecticut Opportunity Communities Initiative

The recently unveiled Connecticut Opportunity Mapping initiative, conducted on behalf of the Connecticut Fair Housing Center, has already impacted policy in the State. The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development has referenced this initiative in the State’s recently released official Long range Housing Plan, voicing support for the model policies presented by the Kirwan Institute. In that report, the State cites the need for state policy that connects people to areas of opportunity and the need to create opportunity in distressed communities. View Opportunity Maps

Austin Opportunity Initiative; Affordable Housing

Working with the housing advocacy organization Green Doors in Austin, Texas, the Institute completed an opportunity mapping assessment of the Austin region. Since the completion of this work, advocates across Austin have utilized the opportunity maps to inform decisions. Recently, the City of Austin’s affordable housing development programs utilized the Institute’s opportunity maps to assess affordable housing investments in the city.

Franklin County, OH Housing Trust

Working with DART affiliate BREAD (Building Responsibility Equity and Dignity), the Institute conducted research to illustrate areas of extreme housing need in Columbus, OH. The research was utilized to fuel an advocacy campaign which succeeded in expanding funding for extremely low income householdsthrough the Franklin County Housing Trust Fund.

Wisconsin LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credit) Criteria

Working with the Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Agency (WHEDA), the Institute assisted in designing a mechanism for supporting affordable housing in job rich areas through Wisconsin’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. The Institute advised WHEDA on a strategy to build in evaluation measures in the State’s LIHTC evaluation criteria that incentivize LIHTC developments in job rich communities.

Equitable Regionalism in Cleveland

The Institute worked on behalf of African American political and business leaders in the Cleveland region, to develop a plan for equitable regionalism in Northeast, Ohio. Several of the strategy and policy recommendations posed in this work have been adopted in the region. These include: a new regional magnet school in the City of Cleveland and a minority business accelerator for the region and a regionalism cabinet position in the City of Cleveland. In addition to the policies suggested by the Institute, the Institute also helped strengthen the engagement of African American leaders around the issues of regionalism, regional development and revenue sharing in Northeast Ohio.

What Our Partners Say

Testimonials

Kirwan’s Opportunity Maps as the Backbone to Regional Planning

But, what I really wanted to express was my excitement and appreciation for the work you have done on the opportunity maps. They are coming together great and they finally make sense to the working group. After the meeting several people were discussing how they have never seen the coast in this light. It presents a regional perspective and, even though more refinement is necessary, it will generate much more discussion among the working group and beyond, and should be the backbone to the regional planning we hope to achieve.

Elaine G. Wilkinson Executive Director, Gulf Regional Planning Commission


The Kirwan Institute has sponsored acclaimed books.

Rising RoadThe New Jim CrowBloody LowndesTwenty-First century Color LinesDarfur: Domesticating Coloniality

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Current Research & Project Initiatives

Sustainable Communities Initiative

Fisher v. University of Texas
REO Initiative

Real Estate-Owned (REO) Initiative The Kirwan Institute is working with the Poverty & Race Research Action Council and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights to expand fair housing opportunities for low income families by advocating the rental of government-owned foreclosed properties in higher-opportunity neighborhoods. For more information on the initiative, see this summary on PRRAC’s website: Cincinnati, Ohio ( opportunity map ) Columbus, Ohio ( opportunity map ) Cleveland, Ohio ( opportunity map ) Seattle, Washington ( opportunity map ) Atlanta, Georgia - Black Population Atlanta, Georgia Comprehensive Opportunity Atlanta, Georgia - Poverty Rate Chicago, Illinois - Black Population Chicago, Illinois Comprehensive Opportunity Chicago, Illinois - Poverty Rate Los Angeles, California - Black Population Los Angeles, California - Poverty Rate Las Vegas, Nevada - Black Population Las Vegas, Nevada - Poverty Rate Jacksonville, Florida - Black Population Jacksonville, Florida Comprehensive Opportunity Jacksonville, Florida - Poverty Rate Orlando, Florida - Black Population Orlando, Florida Comprehensive Opportunity Orlando, Florida - Poverty Rate Phoenix, Arizona Black Population Phoenix, Arizona Poverty Rate Miami, Florida - Black Population Miami, Florida Black Comprehensive Opportunity Miami, Florida - Poverty Rate Riverside, California Black Population Riverside, California Poverty Rate Riverside, California Comprehensive Opportunity West Coast Florida (Tampa and St. Petersburg) - Black Population West Coast Florida (Tampa and St. Petersburg) Comprehensive Opportunity West Coast Florida (Tampa and St. Petersburg) - Poverty Rate Legend : Homepath – Fannie Mae properties Homesteps – Freddie Mac properties HUD – FHA properties

Building Healthy Communities of Opportunity

Building Healthy Communities of Opportunity Health is more than health care. It not only reflects personal choices about healthy habits, or access to primary care, but is significantly impacted by where one lives. Social factors like poverty, unemployment, housing, education, and the food system collectively exert an equally important, maybe even greater, impact on health. Although access to health care services and individual behavior play important roles in determining health, one’s immediate environment and access to opportunity structures are significantly more important. Kirwan's research in this area has highlighted the importance of the spatial dynamics of health opportunity in understanding the social determinants of health and health outcomes. Description of PICO work: Kirwan partnered with PICO National Network and CCO in Kansas City, and MICAH in New Orleans, with the intention to build a common understanding of the conditions necessary for health in order to bring transformative change to the public health delivery system that is not only sustainable, but that promotes better health outcomes for all. Key to this understanding is an awareness of the causes and consequences of health inequities and their relationship to racial and ethnic disparities and hierarchies. The purpose of our study is to map where there are high concentrations of emergency room usage, the “hot spots,” in order to better understand the primary care needs of the community, the costs of using the ER system, and how to transform health care away from ER use and instead reinvest in these “hot spot” communities to build stronger, thriving and healthier families. Kirwan worked with stakeholders and organizers to develop mapping applications which assist in developing and communicating narratives on health care reform and health equity. Reports: - Bring Health Reform Home: Mapping Emergency Room Use to ...

Community Development Collaborative

Community Revitalization

Community Revitalization The Kirwan Institute has worked on a number of initiatives which identify opportunities and challenges to neighborhood and community revitalization, while promoting policies that support the resurgence of these communities. The Institute promotes a model of neighborhood revitalization with the goal of improving neighborhoods while assuring the communities remain neighborhoods of choice that are accessible to all residents. Projects: West Baltimore Columbus Neighborhoods and Health Health Care That Works NYC The Institute has completed a series of maps and analysis addressing health care resources in New York City. This research focuses on the interplay between, race, class, preventative health care (such as primary care physicians and OB/GYN services) and disparate health outcomes throughout the city. Opportunity Agenda is utilizing this work in their broader advocacy efforts to assist local community activities aimed at halting hospital closures in several New York City neighborhoods. (Additional maps to be posted soon). Ohio Health Care Investment & Race The regional dynamics of opportunity are not just limited to education, housing or economic opportunities. Investment in health care is another arena where inequitable patterns of investment can be found in most metropolitan areas. This phenomenon creates additional public health problems for low income communities of color and may be expanding racial disparities in health. The Kirwan Institute is conducting research to identify disparities in spending and access to health care in major metropolitan areas. Read more. Detroit Vacant Property Initiative The Kirwan Institute is providing research and technical assistance regarding establishing an urban land bank program for the City of Detroit alongside MOSES , a nonprofit faith-based coalition. Detroit currently has 40,000 to 70,000 vacant properties. The land bank could bring new ...

Housing Policy

Housing Policy Housing, in particular its location, is the primary mechanism for accessing opportunity in our society. Where you live is more important than what you live in. Housing location determines the quality of local public services, such as schools, the degree of access to employment and transportation, and the degree of public safety. Currently, most affordable housing in our metropolitan regions is disconnected from opportunity. The Kirwan Institute’s housing research focuses on providing fair access to communities of opportunity through affordable housing development and fair housing policy. The Future of Fair Housing & Credit 2010-2011 Work The Housing Crisis: How did we get here, where do we go? The Subprime Lending, Foreclosure and Race Initiative Sustainable Communities Initiative The Kirwan Institute is deeply engaged in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI). The Institute has advised HUD on the program and is working with Sustainable Communities grantees in several regions... More Other Projects and Resources Thompson V. HUD and Opportunity Based Fair Housing in Baltimore Florida’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program [JWR1] Gulf Coast Housing Equity Housing Need & Opportunity in Columbus, OH Learn More About Kirwan's Opportunity Mapping Projects << Back To Opportunity Communities

Racial Equity

Racial Equity The Institute utilizes the community of opportunity model to explore the intersection between marginalization and opportunity for specific racial populations. The following are recent projects and case studies exploring the intersection of race, equity and opportunity. The State of Black Ohio Equity for Marginalized Children in Knoxville, TN Cleveland Race & Regionalism Initiative Cleveland Minority Business Development African American Male Initiative

Race and Cognition

Race and Cognition The Kirwan Institute examines how the form and content of communications influence the way in which racialized messages are received and processed; working to create a communications strategy that illuminates our linked fate. We also examine the processes by which attitudes and ideas about race impact and mediate the relationship between race and opportunity and how these effects can be mitigated. FEATURED PROJECTS & PRESENTATION - Rooting Intergroup Relations for Social Justice: A Curricular “Mapping” of the Field ARCHIVE - Race In The Mind presentations - Race In The Mind publications State of the Science: Implicit Bias Review Download or View the Review The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity has become increasingly mindful of how implicit racial biases shape not only individuals’ cognition and attitudes, but also their behaviors. Indeed, a large body of compelling research has demonstrated how these unconscious, automatically activated, and pervasive mental processes can be manifested across a variety of contexts yielding significant impacts. Consider these striking examples: In a video game that simulates what police officers experience, research subjects were instructed to “shoot” when an armed individual appeared on the screen and refrain from doing so when the target was instead holding an innocuous object such as a camera or wallet. Time constraints were built into the study so that participants were forced to make nearly instantaneous decisions, much like police officers often must do in real life. Findings indicated that participants tended to “shoot” armed targets more quickly when they were African American as opposed to White. When participants refrained from “shooting” an armed target, these characters in the simulation tended to be White rather than African American. Moreover, in circumstances where the target was “shot” in error (i.e., was ...

The Democratic Merit Project

The Democratic Merit Project This project has received generous support from Public Interest Projects – Fulfilling the Dream Fund Overview The Democratic Merit Project challenges institutions to operationalize “merit” in a way that promotes the conditions necessary for a thriving democracy and to define and use merit as an incentive system to reward those actions that a society values. One principal objective of the project is to link diversity and equal opportunity with the democratic mission of higher education. This objective is stimulated by the proposition that, in the United States, institutions of higher education are not uniformly meeting their responsibility to promote diversity and energize democracy by admitting students who have the will to advance a democratic society. When measuring merit among applicants, colleges and universities too often focus heavily on traditional “objective measures of excellence” based on what students have done, who their parents are, and how they have performed on standardized achievement tests. This strategy assists in reinforcing the selectivity of some institutions while ignoring or deemphasizing what students might produce or contribute to the larger society after they graduate—a transformative way of contextualizing the concept of merit and connecting merit to democratic values. Goals of the Project The Democratic Merit Project was developed in 2007 from a proposal crafted by Lani Guinier, Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard University, john powell, then Executive Director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and Williams Chair in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Moritz College of Law, Ohio State University (currently Director, Haas Diversity Research Center and Robert D. Haas Chancellor’s Chair in Equity and Inclusion, University of California, Berkeley) and Claude Steele, then Lucie Stern Professor in the Social ...

Recent Projects

Boys of Color
Civic Engagement
Fair Credit/Fair Housing
Implicit Bias
Legal Analysis
Opportunity Communities
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