2016 Seed Grants

In the fall of 2015 and winter of 2016, the 21st Century Cities Initiative awarded inaugural seed grants to seven cross-disciplinary research projects. Most projects have a city or community partner and a team of researchers from two or more disciplines. See below for a brief summary of each project.


Baltimore Schools Regional Mobility Study 

Cross-Disciplinary Research Team Leads:

Julia Burdick-Will, PhD, Department of Sociology, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS), School of Education (SOE)

Faith Connolly, PhD, School of Education (SOE), Executive Director, Baltimore Education Research Consortium

City/Community Partner: The Baltimore City Schools and the Baltimore County Schools

Description: Residential and school mobility are prevalent among urban youth. Mobility poses instructional problems for schools and disrupts learning for individual students. However, little is known about the mobility patterns in the Baltimore area, specifically migration flows that cross the border between Baltimore City and Baltimore County. This study will bring together administrative data from the city and the county in order to understand regional school mobility and attendance patterns and causes within and between the two districts. Particular attention will be paid to the role of neighborhood and school safety in prompting residential and school moves.


Breaking the Divestment CyclePredicting Abandonment & Fostering Neighborhood Revitalization

Cross-Disciplinary Research Team Leads:

Tamas Budavari, PhD, Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy, Whiting School of Engineering

Phillip M.E. Garboden, Doctoral Candidate, Departments of Sociology and Applied Mathematics, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS)

City/Community Partner: Baltimore Housing

Description: Baltimore’s vacant housing is synonymous with urban decline. After decades of population loss, the city is starting to see revitalization in some areas. Much of this improvement is catalyzed not by traditional heavy-handed urban policy, but by flexible and data driven programs such as the Vacants to Value. This research project will develop a rich parcel-level longitudinal dataset of Baltimore’s housing – merging Baltimore Housing’s administrative data that will help predict vacant properties and help target city resources for revitalization. The team will not only evaluate the efficacy of the city’s programs, but also answer larger urban questions – examining empirically for the first time – the mechanism of property divestment, neighborhood decline, and renewal. 


Extreme Poverty in Baltimore City: A Pilot Study to Test the Feasibility of Enrolling Parent-Child Dyads in Extreme Poverty and Generate Preliminary Data Regarding How Extreme Poverty Affects Children in Distinctive Ways

Cross-Disciplinary Research Team Leads:

Jacky M. Jennings, PhD, MPH, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine (SOM), Department of Epidemiology, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH),

Andrew Cherlin, PhD, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS)

Robert Moffitt, PhD, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS)

Rachel Thornton, MD, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine (SOM)

Sara Johnson, PhD, MPH, Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine (SOM), Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH)

City/Community Partner: Baltimore City Health Department

Description: The number of children living in extreme poverty has increased dramatically in the last decade. The increase may in part be due to changes in social welfare policies. While the causal relationship between poverty and child health outcomes is well-established, we do not know whether the timing, depth and duration of extreme poverty affect children in distinctive ways. This study will compare the physical health status, cognitive abilities and health care utilization of 120 children ages 3 to 10 in two groups – extremely poor and moderately poor- in Baltimore. The multidisciplinary team seeks to determine whether extreme poverty plays a distinctive role in children’s lives.


Feeding the City in an Uncertain World: Creating Resilient Urban Food Systems in Baltimore and Beyond

Cross-Disciplinary Research Team Leads:

Roni Neff, PhD, Environmental Health Sciences, joint appointment in Health Policy and Management, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH) and Director, Food System Sustainability, Center for a Livable Future

Judith Mitrani-Reiser, PhD, Department of Civil Engineering, Whiting School of Engineering and Director, STIRM (Sensor Technology and Infrastructure Risk Mitigation) Laboratory

Daniel Barnett, MD, Environmental Health Sciences, joint appointment in Health Policy and Management, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH)

City/Community Partner: Baltimore Office of Sustainability 

Description: Urban food systems like Baltimore’s are vulnerable to diverse threats. Food system deficits revealed in the wake of the 2015 Baltimore uprising dramatized the urgency of planning actively to promote the city’s food system resilience. This project, performed in partnership with Baltimore City, involves: 1) Assessing existing capabilities, plans, needs, and insights relevant to creating an actionable Baltimore Food System Resilience Plan; 2) Creating the Baltimore Food System Resilience Plan while building engagement and preparing for implementation; 3) Developing a concept model and indicators for urban food system resilience, and laying the groundwork for future urban food system resilience modeling.


How do Black Lives Matter? Assessing the Determinants and Consequences of Municipal Police Spending

Cross-Disciplinary Research Team Leads:

Lester Spence, PhD, Political Science and Africana Studies, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS)

Roland J. Thorpe, Jr., PhD, Health, Behavior, and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH) and Director of the Program for Research on Men’s Health at the Hopkins Center for Health Solutions

Description: Research on the political determinants and consequences of municipal spending on policing are sparse. This project seeks to rectify this gap by studying the key political determinants and consequences of municipal spending on policing in Baltimore City. The structural forces that affect Baltimore (redlining, deindustrialization) are known to impact health outcomes. However, municipal spending in general and on policing in particular is understudied as a potential determinant. This project will build a dataset that will contain data on municipal police expenditures, political data, political culture data, and demographic data covering the last 60 years. Using quantitative methodology, the team will use the dataset to assess the primary determinants and consequences of municipal police spending.


How Landlords House the Homeless

Research Team Lead:

Meredith J. Greif, PhD, Department of Sociology, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences (KSAS)

City/Community Partner: Project PLASE 

Description: The federally funded Shelter Plus Care (S+C) program (now part of the broader Continuum of Care Program) recruits private landlords to provide stable, supportive housing to those who have been homeless and face physical and mental health problems and addiction. However, little is known about participating landlords and the housing environments they provide to tenants. Tenants’ needs seem best suited by residence in units located in safe, well resourced, socially cohesive communities, and that are managed by landlords who can be flexible and attentive to tenants’ needs. Accordingly, the team will explore program landlords’ business practices and the geographic patterning of their units.


Radio and ReconciliationShared Narratives as a Response to Historical Trauma

Cross-Disciplinary Research Team Leads:

Janice Bowie, PhD, Department of Health, Behavior, and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH)

Amelia Buttress, PhD, Department of Health Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH)

Debra Furr-Holden, PhD, Department of Mental Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH)

Katherine Smith, PhD, Professor, Department of Health Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH)

Larry Wissow, MD, MPH, Department of Health Behavior and Society, Bloomberg School of Public Health (BSPH)

City/Community Partner: Cristo Rey Jesuit High School

Description: Historical trauma experienced by many living in East Baltimore remains a barrier to building strong communities and impacts youth expectations and opportunities. Historical trauma is perpetuated by lack of opportunities for sharing stories that can lead to healing and reconciliation. These opportunities are rare in communities that lack media access and shared spaces for dialog. This project will work with high school students to elicit and disseminate stories that promote understanding and collaboration. In addition to building skills and resources in this particular community, the project will add to the evidence supporting narrative interventions for individuals living in traumatized and systematically disenfranchised communities.