Urban Institute

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The Urban Institute
Formation1968; 56 years ago (1968)
TypePublic policy think tank
Headquarters500 L'Enfant Plz SW
Sarah Rosen Wartell
Revenue (2016)
Expenses (2016)$104,029,153[1]

The Urban Institute is a Washington, D.C.–based think tank that conducts economic and social policy research to "open minds, shape decisions, and offer solutions".[2] The institute receives funding from government contracts, foundations, and private donors.

The Urban Institute has been categorized as "nonpartisan",[3][4] "liberal",[5] and "left-leaning".[6] In 2020, the Urban Institute co-hosted the second annual Sadie T.M. Alexander Conference for Economics and Related Fields with The Sadie Collective in Washington, D.C.[7][8]

History and funding[edit]

The Urban Institute was established in 1968 by the Lyndon B. Johnson administration to study the nation's urban problems and evaluate the Great Society initiatives embodied in more than 400 laws passed in the prior four years. Johnson hand-selected economists and civic leaders such as Kermit Gordon, McGeorge Bundy, Irwin Miller, Arjay Miller, Richard Neustadt, Cyrus Vance, and Robert McNamara.[9] William Gorham, former Assistant Secretary for Health, Education and Welfare, was selected as its first president and served from 1968 to 2000.

Gradually, Urban's research and funding base broadened. In 2013, federal government contracts provided about 54% of Urban's operating funds, private foundations another 30%, and nonprofits, corporations and corporate foundations, state and local governments, international organizations and foreign entities, individuals, and Urban's endowment the rest.[10] Some of Urban's more than 100 private sponsors and funders include the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation.[11] Public funding as of the 2020 fiscal year comes from various branches of the United States government including the Department of Justice, Department of Health and Human Services, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the United States Department of Agriculture.[12]


Urban Institute's staff of approximately 450 works in several research centers and program areas: the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy; Metropolitan Housing and Community Policy Center; Health Policy Center; the Center on Education Data and Policy; Income and Benefits Policy Center; Housing Finance Policy Center, the Justice Policy Center; the Labor, Human Services, and Population Center, Research to Action Lab, the Office of Race and Equity Research, and a Statistical Methods Group.[13] The institute also houses the Urban Institute – Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, the National Center for Charitable Statistics and the Urban Institute Press in partnership with Rowman & Littlefield.[14][15] In 2021, Urban developed a Race and Equity Framework and a Chief Diversity Officer was installed in 2022.[16]

The Institute works with the Association of Fundraising Professionals to produce the Fundraising Effectiveness Project. This report provides a summary of data from several different donor software firms and other data providers such as Bloomerang, DonorPerfect, NeonCRM, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, DataLake, DonorTrends, eTapestry, ResultsPlus, and ClearViewCRM. According to the report, donors gave 3% more in 2016 than 2015, but getting $100 cost nonprofits $95.[17]


Sarah Rosen Wartell, a public policy executive and housing markets expert, became the third president of the Urban Institute in February 2012.[18] She succeeded Robert D. Reischauer, former head of the Congressional Budget Office. Reischauer succeeded William Gorham, founding president, in 2000.

Most Urban Institute researchers are economists, social scientists, or public policy and administration researchers. Others are mathematicians, statisticians, city planners, engineers, or computer scientists. A few have backgrounds in medicine, law, or arts and letters. Since at least 2015, the institute's DEI program has resulted in staff being approximately 60 % female identifying, and 25% minority staff.[19]

Board of trustees[edit]

As of 2022, the board members were: Jamie S. Gorelick (chair), N. Gregory Mankiw (vice chair), Annette L. Nazareth (vice chair), Anthony A. Williams (vice chair), J. Adam Abram, Kenneth Bacon, Karan Bhatia, Stacy Brown-Philpot, Mary C. Daly, Shaun Donovan, Diana Farrell, Margaret A. Hamburg, Bill Haslam, Antonia Hernndez, Heather Higginbottom, W. Matthew Kelly, Mary J. Miller, Michael A. Nutter, Eduardo Padrón, Charles H. Ramsey, John Wallis Rowe, Arthur I. Segel, J. Ron Terwilliger, Ashley Swearengin, David A. Thomas, Sarah Rosen Wartell.[20]

Political stance[edit]

The Urban Institute has been referred to as "nonpartisan",[3][4] "liberal",[5] and "left-leaning".[6] A 2005 study of media bias in The Quarterly Journal of Economics ranked UI as the 11th most liberal of the 50 most-cited think tanks and policy groups, placing it between the NAACP and the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.[21] According to a study by U.S. News & World Report most political campaign donations by Urban Institute employees go to Democratic politicians. Between 2003 and 2010, Urban Institute employees' made $79,529 in political contributions, none of which went to the Republican Party.[22]


As of 2020, the Urban Institute had assets of $212,923,643.[1]

Funding details[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Annual Report 2020" (PDF). Urban Institute. Retrieved March 8, 2022.
  2. ^ "About the Urban Institute". Urban Institute.
  3. ^ a b Cohen, Rick (December 12, 2014). "The Inner Workings of Think Tanks: Transparify Gives Us a Good Look". Nonprofit Quarterly. Archived from the original on May 31, 2016. Retrieved August 20, 2018. ... the Urban Institute, and others are typically considered nonpartisan or middle of the road.
  4. ^ a b McLean, Jim (November 20, 2014). "Kansas hospitals continue campaign for Medicaid expansion". Kansas Health Institute. Archived from the original on December 16, 2014. Retrieved August 20, 2018. ... the nonpartisan Urban Institute ...
  5. ^ a b Rich, Spencer (June 12, 1988). "Urban Institute, Leading Liberal Think Tank, Marks 20th Birthday". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on July 1, 2010. Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Hellmann, Jessie (September 16, 2017). "GOP sees fresh opening with Dems' single payer embrace". The Hill. Retrieved April 6, 2022. A 2016 estimate from the left-leaning Urban Institute found a previous plan from Sanders would cost $32 trillion over 10 years.
  7. ^ "UMBC students Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman and Olusayo Adeleye co-create 1st U.S. conference for Black women economists". UMBC News. March 6, 2019.
  8. ^ Sahm, Claudia (February 28, 2020). "Black economists are missing from the Federal Reserve and the U.S. economics profession". Equitable Growth.
  9. ^ "Remarks at a Meeting With the Board of Trustees of the Urban Institute". The American Presidency Project. April 26, 1968. Retrieved June 18, 2018.
  10. ^ "2013 Financials" (PDF). Urban Institute. 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 13, 2015.
  11. ^ "Sources of Support – Fiscal Year 2013 Revenue: Funding Sources" (PDF). Urban Institute. 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 12, 2015.
  12. ^ Wartell, Sarah Rosen (2020). "2020 Annual Report" (PDF). Urban Institute. Archived (PDF) from the original on June 30, 2022. Retrieved June 30, 2022.
  13. ^ "Policy Centers". Urban Institute. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  14. ^ "Urban Institute titles". Rowman & Littlefield. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  15. ^ "Urban Institute Press". Urban Institute. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  16. ^ "DEI Journey and Data". Urban Institute. Retrieved August 20, 2023.
  17. ^ "Report: Net On $100 In Giving Is Just $5 – The NonProfit Times". The NonProfit Times. Retrieved May 4, 2017.
  18. ^ "Urban Institute Press Release: Sarah Rosen Wartell, Think Tank Executive and Housing Finance Expert, to be the Urban Institute's Third President".
  19. ^ Urban Institute – Journey and Data
  20. ^ "Board of Trustees". Urban Institute. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  21. ^ Groseclose, Tim & Milyo, Jeffrey. (2005). "A Measure of Media Bias". Archived 2014-03-08 at the Wayback Machine The Quarterly Journal of Economics Vol. CXX November Issue 4, pp. 1191–1237.
  22. ^ Kurtzleben, Danielle (March 3, 2011). "Think Tank Employees Tend to Support Democrats". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved June 18, 2018.

External links[edit]