The District of Columbia and the surrounding suburbs face complex, interconnected problems within a rapidly evolving region. The Urban Institute conducts research on a variety of policy challenges facing the Washington region, including work on child well-being, education reform, affordable housing, homelessness, poverty, crime, and health care. Through these projects, the Institute helps policymakers understand Washington's unique needs and develop practical strategies to meet those needs.
Research areas include:
Crime and Justice
District of Columbia Crime Policy Institute Focused on crime and justice policy in Washington, D.C., DCPI’s mission is to support improvements in the administration of justice and public safety policies through evidence-based research.
NeighborhoodInfo DC Focused on supporting community organizations, neighborhood leadership, residents, and government through providing a wide-range of data indicators about D.C. neighborhoods.
Publications on Washington D.C. Region
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This report is the first part of an affordable housing needs assessment for the DC Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. We examined the District of Columbia’s Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) program through interviews, document review, and data analysis. The IZ program has great potential to help expand the city’s supply of affordable housing, particularly in neighborhoods undergoing rapid development. While the overall design of DC’s IZ program seems sound, we believe that adopting the proposed IZ administrative regulations will help developers, renters, and owners save time and improve their understanding of the program and its requirements.
This report presents baseline and process study findings of an evaluation of the Urban Alliance high school internship program, which provides training, mentoring, and work experience to high school seniors from distressed communities in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Northern Virginia, and Chicago. The report, which focuses on the program's operations in DC and Baltimore in the 2011–12 and 2012–13 program years, explains the internship program model and its various components; describes the characteristics of youth participants; and presents findings from dozens of interviews and focus groups with program staff, youth, job mentors, and other stakeholders.
This report examines the incidence of gunfire as measured by gunshot detection technology using data from the 2011-2012 school year. It finds that a disproportionate volume of gunfire happened near a small share of DC schools. About half of DC schools covered by gunshot detection sensors are in close proximity to gunfire, and four schools were subject to repeated bursts of gunfire. These findings shed new light on students' exposure to violence and raise important questions about the psychological impact of gunfire on students and how their proximity to gunfire may affect truancy and educational outcomes.
This study examines critical gaps in affordable housing across a range of income levels in the Washington, DC region. More permanent supportive housing is needed to reduce chronic homelessness. The lack of affordable apartments, particularly for extremely low income renters, contributed to the number of homeless people and resulted in over half of all renters paying over 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Low income homebuyers also faced challenges because of high prices. These findings can help local governments and philanthropy direct scarce public and private resources to address the region's affordable housing needs.
This report highlights findings from a qualitative study about asthma care for low-income African American and Latino children ages 4-14 in Washington, DC, where nearly one in five children under age 18 has the condition. We interviewed medical providers, health administrators, policy makers and caregivers whose children had visited the IMPACT DC clinic (located in the emergency department of Children’s National Health System) about the primary barriers, challenges, and opportunities for improving asthma treatment in DC. The stakeholders each felt their school, clinic, agency, or department had a role to play in improving asthma care, and that many challenges were system-related. Three major areas where caregivers and stakeholders described system breakdowns were poor communication among caregivers, providers, and other stakeholders; inadequate access to both the quality and quantity of care needed to manage a child's asthma; and scarce long-term support to address both the social-emotional and financial burdens created by managing a chronic childhood illness.