Cities ply data against declining economic mobility

Under a new initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, 10 cities will track data with the goal of reducing income inequality and boosting economic opportunity for individuals and families.
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Cincinnati officials are turning to data analytics as a way to develop evidence-driven programs that improve the ability of community members to improve their economic statuses. As one of a handful of cities participating in a new national initiative announced last week that uses data to address challenges surrounding economic opportunity, Cincinnati is aiming to connect low-income workers with job-readiness and job-placement services.

“The city of Cincinnati has a robust system to track a multitude of data about what is happening locally,” Audrey Treasure, executive director of the Cincinnati USA Regional, said in a statement. “City leaders see data as informing the work of the city.”

Treasure said that by using technology, the city hopes to better understand its residents, businesses and government operations. The hope is that officials will be able to track challenges companies are facing and the solutions that local residents and organizations might be able to provide.

“Data has become ingrained at every level of city operations,” Treasure said.


Cincinnati’s project, along with those led by nine other cities, is supported by an initiative run by Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities that received a $12 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Ballmer Group last fall to help cities confront urgent challenges through the use of data and evidence-based decision-making.

The other nine cities — Albuquerque, New Mexico; Dayton, Ohio; Detroit; Lansing, Michigan; New Orleans; Newark, New Jersey; Racine, Wisconsin; Rochester, New York and Tulsa, Oklahoma — will identify, pilot, and measure the success of interventions to accelerate economic mobility for their residents, Bloomberg announced on June 18.

Projects that each city will pursue to address economic mobility include providing residents financial-empowerment tools, educational access, and affordable housing opportunities.

According to Opportunity Insights, a research group based at Harvard University, economic mobility, a term used to describe the ability of individuals of families to improve their financial situations, has steadily declined over the past 50 years. Today, only half of children grow up to earn more than their parents, the group says.

By analyzing data, the hope under the new Bloomberg program is that cities will be able to more effectively address growing income inequality and declining economic mobility.


To do this, Cincinnati will have to increase data-sharing between local nonprofit agencies and training partners and develop relationships to non-local data sources, Treasure said.

“As part of the What Works Cities Economic Mobility Initiative, we will be looking to build on and expand data-sharing capacities across agencies and jurisdictions to better use data to design and evaluate programs,” she said.

Betsy Foresman

Written by Betsy Foresman

Betsy Foresman was an education reporter for EdScoop from 2018 through early 2021, where she wrote about the virtues and challenges of innovative technology solutions used in higher education and K-12 spaces. Foresman also covered local government IT for StateScoop, on occasion. Foresman graduated from Texas Christian University in 2018 — go Frogs! — with a BA in journalism and psychology. During her senior year, she worked as an intern at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., and moved back to the capital after completing her degree because, like Shrek, she feels most at home in the swamp. Foresman previously worked at Scoop News Group as an editorial fellow.

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