Publications by Barbara Ray

As owner of HiredPen, Barbara specializes in social media and strategic communications for nonprofits and research organizations.

Two Must-Reads on the Death of the Middle Class in the Heartland

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

5.23.13 | Edward McClelland’s new book, “Nothin’ But Blue Skies: The Heyday, Hard Times, and Hopes of America’s Industrial Heartland,” may well be the story of regional resilience writ large, tracing the Midwest’s industrial rise and fall and, perhaps, its future. Coupled with “Detroit: An American Autopsy,” the sobering, riveting tale of Detroit’s fall by reporter Charlie LeDuff, the two are not an easy read if you grew up in this part of the world and remember when. (more…)

Suburban Poverty Demands New Partnerships, Greater Scale

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

5.21.13 | As we near the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, it’s worth a moment to consider just how effective that effort was, particularly against the backdrop of stalemate and pettiness that our current Congress offers. In 1964, when President Johnson launched the War on Poverty, 19% of country was in poverty. By end of decade six years later, a mere 72 months, that rate had dropped to 12%.

And yet, as Brookings scholars Elizabeth Kneebone and Alan Berube argue in their new book, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,” the approach that Johnson took will no longer work today. Too much has changed, and foremost among those changes is the massive shift of poverty to the suburbs. (more…)

Mass Incarceration and Cities

Friday, May 17th, 2013

5.17.13 | Back in the colonial America, people were thrown in jail for owing money they couldn’t pay. Debtor’s prisons, and their cousin “the poor house,” were commonplace until the early 1800s, when they were outlawed at the federal level. Most of the prisoners owed minimal amounts. Of the 1,162 debtors in prison in New York City in 1787 and 1788, 716 of them owed under 20 shillings.

From our vantage point today, we may shake our heads at such notion idea. Harsh, inhuman, barbaric even. Yet we shouldn’t feel too smug. As Cook County Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle told a recent audience at the May 10 Urban Network forum on “Health in Cities,” today’s jails are essentially a 21 century debtors prison.  (more…)

Moving to Higher Ground

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

5.14.13 | Nob Hill, Beacon Hill, Georgetown all have two things in common: elevation and wealth.

Or as Canadian singer-songwriter”  Geoff Bermer’s song, Higher Ground, puts it:

 The rich are gonna move to the high ground

The rich are gonna move to the high ground

Holy doodle, look at your town

 The rich are gonna move to the high ground

That’s no coincidence, says University of Chicago’s Carlos Villarreal, a research analyst at the Center for Population Economics there.  Villarreal presented his latest research at last Friday’s Urban Network forum, Health in Cities, organized by the Center for Health and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago.

Villarreal’s curiosity was sparked when he missed his subway stop on the Upper East Side of New York and got off in East Harlem, among the poorest neighborhoods in Manhattan since at least the 1880s. What, he wondered, makes this neighborhood poor, while just blocks away, some of the wealthiest households in America reside?

“Health in Cities” Forum This Friday in Chicago

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

5.8.2013 | I’m looking forward to this Friday’s day-long forum on “health in cities” at the University of Chicago. The event, organized by Urban Network, will feature several panels discussing a range of aspects that affect a city’s health, including  poverty, education, health care, environmental quality and crime.

Good or poor health is never the result of a single effort or a single factor. Diet, exercise, environment, and our own quirky and complex bodies join forces to make us sick or keep us healthy. Likewise in cities, which too are complex organisms affected by myriad factors. Therefore, improving the health of cities requires a multidisciplinary effort to both diagnose and solve the health problems.

That’s the goal of this forum.


Big Data to the Rescue for Cities?

Friday, April 5th, 2013

4.5.2013 | Back in January, we asked the question, Can “big data” help design and build better cities? A lot of people thought so. More recently, people have been asking: Can big data improve the cities that already exist? The answer seems to be yes…but. (more…)

Charting the Gun Violence Epidemic

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

BRR member Edward (Ned) Hill, dean of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, has turned his shock at the Newtown tragedy into three new papers on gun violence in America.  Once a resident of nearby Oxford, CT, and whose family owned a store in Newtown for many years, Hill wanted to give back in some way.  He turned to research. 

The first report looks at gun violence as a public health issue. The second examines the cost of putting armed officers in every school building in the nation in response to the NRA’s proposal. The third tries to answer the question of how many guns are in America. (more…)

“Detroit Future City” Outlines Plans for a New Detroit

Thursday, March 28th, 2013

3.28.2013 | Detroit is in the news with its new emergency manager set to begin work. A first step by be reading  Detroit Works Project’s “Detroit Future City“– a plan for rebuilding Detroit. It has a lot of good ideas–from people on the ground in Detroit itself. (more…)

Big Data and Urban Planning

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

1.22.2013 | Can “big data” help design and build better cities? Many scientists apparently think so, based on the number of new initiatives in “informatics”– the acquisition, integration, and analysis of data to understand and improve urban systems and quality of life.

One of those is the new Urban Center for Computation and Data (UrbanCCD) at the University of Chicago. The research center is using advanced computational methods to understand the rapid growth of cities. The center brings together scholars and scientists from the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory with architects, city planners, and many others. (more…)

Round-up of the Latest Foreclosure News

Friday, January 18th, 2013

1.18.2013 | Housing in an integral part of a resilient city and region, just ask Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Cape Coral, Florida.  Far too many families remain stuck in place, underwater on their mortgages or just unwilling to sell in a down market. Many others are working to rebuild after losing their homes to foreclosure. And neighborhoods hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis face an uphill climb.

The latest news comes with a mix of good news and bad. Are we on the road to true recovery? You decide. Here’s the latest round-up of stories: (more…)