Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by On Lollipops/Shutterstock

Last year, we announced our collaboration with the Cloudera Foundation to accelerate our progress toward a vision of providing free and open access to high-quality education data for a diverse set of stakeholders pushing for change. Our long-term goal is to make it easier for people to use data to inform decisionmaking and hold decisionmakers accountable.

Thanks to the financial, technical, and software support of the foundation and its top-tier engineering experts, and generous product donations from Cloudera, Inc., …


Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by Zeeker2526/Shutterstock

The Urban Institute Education Data Portal offers open, free access to education data from a number of data sources in one place, with the goal of making it easier for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to generate rigorous, accurate, and actionable insights to improve outcomes for students.

As more and more people have begun to rely on the portal for their work — we now have well over 1,000 unique active users every month — we decided to take a closer look at our public data policy to ensure that it aligned with best practices from leading data providers in the…


Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by Urban Institute
  1. Applying racial equity awareness in data visualization

Applying an equity lens to data visualization requires critically examining default thinking around language, ordering, color choice, and who is excluded and why. As we update our data visualization style guide, we’re centering the experiences of those we study, our audiences, and those we hope to reach.

2. Pivoting community engagement during COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed how organizations interact with the communities they work with, and innovative community engagement approaches should accurately reflect these residents’ priorities, needs, and preferences. Three key strategies can guide organizations working with those needing support during the pandemic.


Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by wan wei/Shutterstock

Following the presidential election, Rob Santos, Urban Institute vice president, chief methodologist, and president-elect of the American Statistical Association, sat down with Graham MacDonald, Urban’s chief data scientist, to discuss the state of polling and related issues in light of the unfolding election results. The following is a lightly edited transcript of their conversation.

Graham: Early indicators from last week’s 2020 general election show polling has been somewhat off in some places and relatively good in other areas. Some are asking the question, “Why do we even need polls?” …


Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by Allison Feldman for the Urban Institute

Data-driven decisionmaking in city government has expanded rapidly in recent years, driven by advances in technology and the digitization of many city services. While we at the Urban Institute applaud the growth of data-driven decisionmaking, we also recognize that there are real concerns about the potential for bias in data used to guide public decisions. Left unchecked, unrepresentative data can directly lead to inequitable policy outcomes that harm vulnerable groups.

For example, many public works departments have started using citizen complaint data, like 311 requests, to allocate scarce city resources to perform sidewalk repairs and fix potholes. On the surface…


Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by Nadia Snopek/Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic and the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other Black Americans at the hands of police have laid bare the life-and-death racial inequities that have long characterized life in America. The Urban Institute, like many organizations, is taking stock of how our practices cause harm and what it would take to advance racial equity.

Urban’s reputation, built on objective, evidence-based research, carries significant responsibility. As researchers and data experts, we have the power to shape conversations and actions in ways many don’t. …


Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by LvNL/Shutterstock

The following post is a summarized version of the article accepted to the 2020 Visualization for Communication workshop as part of the 2020 IEEE VIS conference to be held in October 2020. The full paper has been published as an OSF Preprint and can be accessed here.

The Urban Institute’s mission is to open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions. …


Image for post
Image for post
Image courtesy of The Urban Institute

At the Urban Institute, we believe the best policy decisions are based in facts. We envision a future in which more policymakers, researchers, and advocates have access to the data they need to make informed decisions and work toward policies and programs that better serve all students.

To fulfill that vision, in April 2018, the Urban Institute first launched the Education Data Portal as a freely available, one-stop shop for accessing cleaned, harmonized federal education data and metadata. …


Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by wei/Shutterstock.

At the Urban Institute, Drupal is our primary digital content management system. From our main website to all our partner projects and legacy sites, we have more than a dozen projects in both Drupal 7 and 8.

Five years ago, Drupal 8 was released with a new codebase completely separate from 7. It started with this new codebase and relied on various front-end and back-end libraries that weren’t included in Drupal 7. Consequently, the upgrade process from Drupal 7 to 8 was complex and required content and site configuration migration that, unfortunately, we don’t cover in this post.

With the…


Image for post
Image for post
Illustration by the Urban Institute

Food insecurity has nearly doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic — skyrocketing unmet financial need and a rapidly changing food supply chain are exacerbating food access disparities. This has left food banks and distribution programs struggling to keep up with demand. And even when food distribution is available, limited public transit service has limited access for those without a car, disproportionately affecting residents who are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color.

Organizations distributing food are making difficult decisions every day about how to increase access to distribution sites for those with the most need. Every city faces unique challenges and questions…

Data@Urban

Data@Urban is a place to explore the code, data, products, and processes that bring Urban Institute research to life.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store