The research community
at the Institute includes
visiting scholars, consultants,
economists, research analysts,
and research assistants. These
scholars bring a diversity of
backgrounds, interests, and
expertise to research that
deepens our understanding
of economic opportunity
and inclusion as well as
policies that work to improve
both. We talked with four
of them about their work.
Dionissi Aliprantis has spent a lot of time in neighborhoods—
from Quito to Port-au-Prince, Indianapolis to
Philadelphia. In each place, he observed neighborhoods
that differed greatly from one another. “I think there are
instances in the U.S. right now and throughout the world,”
Aliprantis said, “where the environmental characteristics of
where a person lives overwhelm the individual’s characteristics”
in determining a person’s economic outcomes in life.
If economic opportunity is defined by
how much success a person achieves in
return for a certain level of effort—studying
for school, say, or opening a business—
it’s clear that where a person lives
plays an important role in determining
what opportunities are available.
This insight has animated Aliprantis’
research agenda as well as his engagement
in his community. His work seeks
to identify the effects of neighborhoodson people’s economic opportunity, what drives changes inneighborhood demographics over time, and how wealthand race influence neighborhood sorting.
This last project emerged from the puzzle that high-income
Black households and high-income White households
live in neighborhoods with quite different poverty
rates, unemployment rates, and educational attainment
rates. Knowing that Black households have less wealth
than White households at every income level, Aliprantis
and his co-authors looked at whether financial constraints
influence this pattern.
They found, however, that neither wealth nor housing
prices explain the observed pattern of neighborhood sorting.
Rather, the sole explanation appears to be race: Black
households live in Black neighborhoods, White households
in White neighborhoods. This finding shows that “residential
segregation isn’t just about the economics. It’s also
about our history of race,” Aliprantis said.
Investing in neighborhoods is both a personal and a professional
commitment for Aliprantis, who is a system affiliate
of the Institute and the director of the Cleveland Fed’s
Program on Economic Inclusion. He is also the founder of
Greater Than Math, a nonprofit that runs math enrichment
programs for middle and high school students in Cleveland.
Aliprantis views the nonprofit as a means of creating
opportunity: “The flexibility of mind it takes to look at a
mathematical problem from all different perspectives is really
helpful in our own lives, whether it’s solving a personal problem
or a social problem in our community,” Aliprantis said.
More Scholar Spotlights from this issue