Cities define and approach economic mobility in different ways. For instance, in one city,an economic development department may be in charge of boosting economic mobility by improving the business climate, while another department could aim to close generational racial wealth gaps through cross-departmental coordination.

At the Center for Applied Public Research, we talk about economic mobility in terms of a person’s potential to earn more than their parents (also known as absolute mobility). While this is a long-term goal, there are short- and medium-term interventions that can help people on their path toward upward mobility – for instance, by helping people access healthy food and neighborhoods with more opportunity. 

Our Economic Mobility Policy Forum brings together staff from multiple departments in cities, counties, nonprofits and school districts to share their work on economic mobility and to engage with researchers working on that same goal. Read on to get a sense of the range of topics covered by our Economic Mobility Policy Forum speakers, and the buzz their work is creating on a national level.

Celeste Chavis: Associate Professor, Transportation & Urban Infrastructure Studies, Morgan State University

Dr. Chavis is at the forefront of research on the link between transportation and food access in Baltimore City – so who better to work with the city’s Planning Department?  Dr. Chavis will conduct an evaluation of the city’s pilot grocery access program with Lyft, featured in a  recent Baltimore Sun article, Baltimore is one of 16 cities partnering with Lyft to provide affordable rides to grocery stores for families in low-income communities, as one of multiple policy solutions to improve food access. In December, Dr. Chavis and Alice Huang, a City Planner, spoke with our Policy Forum about a research collaboration they undertook to better understand residents’ shopping habits, preferences, and transportation needs. We plan to hear from Dr. Chavis again as the Lyft pilot evolves.

Zach Parolin: Post-doctoral researcher, Columbia’s Center on Poverty & Social Policy

This week, Dr. Parolin talked to Policy Forum members about how welfare is distributed exacerbates the racial child poverty gap. Dr. Parolin’s new research was recently featured in The Atlantic, and offers a fresh perspective on how well-intended policies and programs contribute to structural inequality. Dr. Parolin set the stage for Dr. Robert Moffit’s discussion of promising recommendations to reduce child poverty, which are drawn from the 2015 Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty. Dr. Moffit served on a national committee of subject matter experts who co-authored the report. The conversation is intended to deepen our collective understanding of the causes of poverty, and shape the way Policy Forum members think about and implement initiatives to reduce it.

Stefanie DeLuca: Professor of Sociology & Social Policy, Johns Hopkins University

Next month, Policy Forum members have a chance to talk with Dr. Stefanie DeLuca, a leading researcher on a promising intervention that is generating a lot of buzz among the research community and in cities alike. Featured in Vox, NPR, and other national publications, Creating Moves to Opportunity adds a human-centered component to a classic intervention – supplementing housing voucher programs with incentives and counseling to help people move to better neighborhoods and break the cycle of intergenerational, place-based poverty. DeLuca’s team’s simple intervention showed dramatic improvements in the ability of voucher recipients to access high-opportunity neighborhoods, a strategy that could be used to improve economic mobility in the future. 

Michael J Wilson: Director, Maryland Hunger Solutions

In October last year, when courts were reviewing legal challenges to the public charge rule, Michael J Wilson spoke with members of our Policy Forum about the implications that this rule would have on residents. The rule, proposed by the Trump administration, would consider the use of benefits like SNAP in determining whether an immigrant can legally remain in the United States. Wilson and his colleagues at the national anti-hunger nonprofit Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) explained that even though the rule has yet to go into effect, it has resulted in people dropping benefits to which they are eligible and entitled. Recently, Wilson was quoted in a Baltimore Sun article about the implications of another Trump administrative policy change, which will result in approximately 30,000 Marylanders losing food stamp benefits – half of whom reside in Baltimore City.

If you are interested in participating in these discussions,  join the Policy Forum wait list at Have questions or want to engage with our team? Please email us at