Thirty-five first-year graduate students in the
university's Master of Public Policy program
spent the fall semester analyzing the pluses and pitfalls
of Baltimore's mixed-income neighborhoods to
help city leaders better understand the implications of a
recently enacted inclusionary housing
The new law requires that developments of market-rate
housing include some units that are
affordable to lower-income households. Yet there is a
dearth of research on whether such a housing
mix will be good for Baltimore or for the low-income
families it's meant to help. With that in mind,
Sandra Newman, director of the Institute for Policy
Studies, saw a win-win opportunity for both her
students and the city as she prepared the syllabus for her
annual course Policy Analysis for the Real
World. Of the six different policy analyses on which the
students work during the term, one focuses
on a public policy problem in Baltimore and aims to find a
"When I was shopping around in the late spring for an
issue facing Baltimore, I realized
inclusionary housing fit the two criteria for a successful
semesterlong Baltimore-focused policy
analysis," said Newman, a professor of policy studies.
"One, it has to be a good hands-on experience
for the students, a problem on the ground in the city of
Baltimore; and two, the work the students do
needs to result in information that is useful to the city
and its residents."
To that end, the students set out to determine whether
there is hard evidence demonstrating
that mixed-income environments — generally defined as
having a blend of low-, middle- and high-income
households — are beneficial to the lower-income
families in the neighborhood.
Working in teams of seven, the students immersed
themselves in a sampling of mixed-income
communities — Woodring, Howard Park, Glen,
Lakeside-Ednor Gardens and Lauraville North —
1990 and 2000 U.S. Census data as well as city
administrative databases. They also conducted nearly
200 face-to-face interviews with residents, business owners
and arm's-length experts to ascertain
quality of life. The research included comparing each
neighborhood with a separate sample of low- and
high-income neighborhoods to contrast characteristics such
as race, income, crime rates and housing
The class shared its findings with an audience of 30
to 40 representatives of city government
and neighborhood organizations last week during a
presentation in Homewood's Hodson Hall.
Overall, the students concluded that making universal
assumptions about the desirability of
mixed-income neighborhoods is unwise. For instance, they
found that mixed-income neighborhoods
perform unexpectedly high in residential stability, but
it's hard to say with certainty whether that's a
good or bad quality. While having a neighborhood where
residents remain in the same home for five
years or more might sound like a good thing, the students
observed that it could also mean that people
have no resources to afford relocating.
Also, a high number of building and renovation permits
is generally considered a sign of a
healthy neighborhood, so a low number could be read as a
sign of decline in private investment. But
that might not be the case. One city resident in the
audience pointed out that her neighborhood
association fights against the influx of new businesses
that it finds undesirable, such as bars or night
clubs, and that if the class looked at statistics alone,
the results of that proactive stance could
actually appear to be a bad thing.
Because of these variations, the students cautioned
city leaders against making blanket
decisions about what is universally the best course of
action in Baltimore's mixed-income communities.
Yet the budding analysts did find that the city's
mixed-income neighborhoods have strengths
worth fostering, including high degrees of "social capital"
— like civic engagement and neighborliness —
that leads to greater feelings of safety and satisfaction
with where people live.
After garnering useful insights from the audience
during the presentation last week, Newman's
students are now finalizing their report, hard copies of
which will be shared with city leaders and
everyone who attended the presentation. The report also
will be published in the IPS Occasional Paper
Series and will be available on the IPS Web site, http://ips.jhu.edu.
The semesterlong study of Baltimore gives her students
a strong foundation on which to build
their future as public policy analysts, Newman said.
"As beginning analysts, they don't yet have the
statistical skills to take their research to the
next level," Newman said. "But this is where every good
policy analysis begins. The students' report will
suggest to city leaders what they think ought to be a path
for the city to follow."