Giving Compass' Take:

• RAND researchers are working with Pittsburgh city officials to identify social inequality disparities and where there is progress being made to address these issues. 

 • How can other cities apply similar research methods to combat social inequality? Where are the social and economic disparities in your community, and what is being done to address them?

• Read a new essay analyzing racial inequality in the U.S.

Being black in Pittsburgh, RAND research has found, means being six times more likely than a white person to go to bed hungry. It means bringing home less than half as much pay, and seeing your children hospitalized with asthma four times more often.

The city has been taking a hard look at race, wealth, and opportunity, in partnership with researchers at RAND's office there. It hasn't just run the numbers on subjects ranging from police contacts to business ownership to graduation rates; it has published them for all to see as part of a commitment to do better.

The results show what disparity looks like in one big American city. But they also provide a case study for other cities, of what they might find if they held up a mirror to their own promises of equity and inclusion.

“There are conversations about inequity happening all over the country,” said Linnea Warren May, a policy analyst at RAND who has led the work in Pittsburgh. “But how do you measure inequity? What are the critical systemic issues that contribute to it? Pittsburgh has this narrative of being a city on the rise, but there are still people being left behind.”

Today, Pittsburgh ranks as one of the most livable cities in America, the Paris of Appalachia. Yet more than one-third of its black residents live in poverty. “Pittsburgh is a very hard city,” playwright August Wilson once said of his hometown, “especially if you're black.”

RAND researchers, working with the city to anticipate the challenges of the 21st century, put social inequality near the top of the list. What the city needed was a way to not just identify disparities, but to show where it was making progress in fighting them, and where it was not.

Read the full article about Pittsburgh working on addressing economic disparities by Doug Irving at RAND.