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21st Century Cities Initiative Award for Doctoral Research on Urban Issues


The 21st Century Cities Initiative (21CC) at Johns Hopkins University promotes the research of graduate students working toward a Ph.D. degree with a 21CC Research Award for innovative dissertation research focusing on policy-relevant urban research that closely aligns with 21CC’s interest areas. In 2019, 21CC awarded eight PhD students researching a variety of urban issues from homelessness to education to housing to urban agriculture in Baltimore City and cities across the globe.

Opening Classrooms: Instructional practices and student positionality as predictors of open classroom climate for discussion

Awardee: Kelly Siegel-Stechler, School of Education

Description: Early work on civic education quickly identified the importance of open classroom climate for discussion (OCC), or “the extent to which students experience their classrooms as places to investigate issues and explore their opinions and those of their peers,” as one of the most important predictors of effective practices for political socialization, building civic knowledge, and citizenship development. Unfortunately, there is evidence that access to OCC is not equitably distributed, and urban or underprivileged students are most likely to miss out. While policy could play a role in increasing access to OCC, relatively little work exists on the determinants of open classroom climates themselves, especially the role of teacher instructional practices. This study seeks to identify the relationships between teacher instructional practices and OCC in secondary social studies settings in US urban settings and Miami-Dade County.

Homelessness and Its Association with Maternal Morbidity

Awardee: Kelley Robinson, School of Nursing

Description: Maternal morbidity (MM) is the unexpected pregnancy-related illness resulting in significant short- or long-term consequences to a woman’s health and affects almost one-third of labor and delivery hospitalizations in the United States. US research reports that being homeless while pregnant is an indicator for infant morbidities, but little is known regarding how urban homeless women deal with this social determinant while managing their health in pregnancy. This sequential mixed methods study will examine MM among pregnant women experiencing homelessness in Baltimore.

Understanding Behavioral Responses and the Policy Implications of Rent Regulation using Novel Microdata in the New York City

Awardee: Hanchen Jiang, School of Arts & Sciences

Description: About 50% of renters in large U.S. cities are rent-burdened (25% are severely rent-burdened). Rent regulation has played a central role among housing policies aimed at keeping housing affordable, which has witnessed a clear legislative momentum recently. However, our understanding of the recipients’ behavioral responses to this policy is very limited, especially in terms of its impact on labor market outcomes. Answers to these questions are not only important in terms of providing evidence-based policy implications directly, but also in shedding light on a better understanding of the linkage between housing and labor markets broadly. This project focuses on rent regulation in New York City and uses a novel large-scale micro-data set: the New York City Housing Vacancy Survey to tackle these questions applying rigorous quantitative methods. One of the main objectives is to not only ask whether rent stabilization has any impact, but also to understand the role of information: does it matter whether people are aware or unaware of living in rent stabilized units?

Protecting urban agriculture participants in Baltimore, MD from soil contaminants: characterizing activities, exposure factors, and risk

Awardee: Sara Lupolt, School of Public Health

Description: With over two thirds of the global population projected to live in cities by 2050, urban agriculture (UA) presents a significant opportunity to provide local ecosystem services and improve the resilience and efficiency of urban food systems. The physical and mental health benefits among urban agriculture participants (UAPs) who engage in community gardening are increasingly understood, and urban farms offer employment opportunities and can play important roles in community and economic development. However, urban soils are an important source of both naturally occurring and anthropogenic contaminants that may pose potential risks to human health. This project will investigate the activities and behaviors of UAPs that involve soil contact to develop exposure factors that will improve the relevance of site-specific risk assessments for UA and support the development of urban policies and guidance that will adequately protect UAPs.

College Choice Among Disadvantaged Youth in Suburban Schools: Benefits and Challenges for the Postsecondary Transition

Awardee: Allison Young, School of Arts & Sciences

Description: Despite increasing college expectations, college enrollment remains stratified by class and race. High schools can either mitigate or exacerbate these class and race differences. Recent evidence from the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) study shows that low-income children whose families move when they are young from high-poverty, urban neighborhoods and schools to low-poverty, suburban neighborhoods and schools are more likely to attend college. Less research has examined how low-income families who make residential moves into opportunity neighborhoods and schools translate the resources of suburban spaces into increased educational attainment for their children. As low-income families are increasingly moving to suburban areas—with and without programmatic assistance—we need a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms behind the benefits and challenges of these moves. The study will conduct follow-up interviews with a sample of 40 low-income, African-American youth whose families previously participated in a larger study of the Baltimore Housing Mobility Program from 2012-2017. Interviews will focus on the youths’ process of preparing for post-secondary education or employment, exploring available options, and deciding on and pursuing a path.

Reproductive, maternal & newborn health (RMNH) indicators in conflict and displacement settings: The use of standardized core RMNH indicators in urban out-of-camp settings

Awardee: Marwa Ramadan, School of Public Health

Description: With reduced funding for camps and settlements in many countries combined with the self-selection of the majority of displaced populations to reside in towns and cities, the provision of effective services to displaced populations in urban settings is becoming more important. Forced displacement over the past decade has added additional burden on healthcare systems in numerous countries jeopardizing the quality of care for both the host and displaced populations. This is of special importance in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), which host the largest number and proportion of displaced populations. The overall goal of this thesis is to develop and test a core list of reproductive maternal, and neonatal health (RMNH) indicators in urban displacement settings to measure the effectiveness of public health interventions.

Between Habitation and Commodity: Housing Regimes in China’s Urban Transformation (1988-2018)

Awardee: Nanxi Zeng, School of Arts & Sciences

Description: This project asks how state actors, private capital, and societal forces shape the changing housing system in China’s urban transformation since the late 1980s. Against the conventional notion that marketization equals the withdrawal of the state and the takeover of the private market, the Chinese marketization of housing is a state-led process with substantial local variation. To understand the temporal transformation of and the local variation in the Chinese housing system, the project introduces the concept of “urban housing regimes” to describe housing-related policies, practices, and discourses at the level of municipal cities. By situating housing at the intersection of economic development and social welfare, this project uses the case of China to shed light on a broader theoretical question of how states find a balance between capital accumulation and social protection in the realm of housing.

New Faces, Same Old Schools? How Public Schools Have Adapted to New Hispanic Populations

Awardee: Dhathri Chunduru, School of Education

Description: As American public schools become increasingly comprised of children of color who are also more likely to be poor and from immigrant families, schools are adapting to these changes, but our understanding of these changes is particularly limited, especially in urban areas. This project explores the relationship between the diffusion of and growth in Hispanic populations outside of traditional sites of immigration, school-level mechanisms, and student outcomes. These new sites of immigration are defined as 21st century new destinations (21st CNDs), which are school districts that had low levels of Hispanic populations in 1990 and then experienced rapid rates in compositional change, measured by percent growth om Hispanic populations, over the following two decades. This project seeks to provide insight into how public schools are currently responding to changing populations and the extent to which this is affecting the achievement of Hispanic students, themselves.

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