About


I've always been fascinated by cities and the ways they shape, and are shaped by, the lives of people who inhabit them. Some of that interest is likely due to the fact that I spent much of my childhood in the halls of urban planning academe. Another part is probably because cities have always had a certain allure to me. I grew up in Urbana, Illinois, which is close enough for Chicago to be accessible, but far enough away for it to remain enticing and somewhat mysterious. Chicago's still my favorite American city. As a teenager, I moved to Silver Spring, Maryland and experienced firsthand the consequences that land use and infrastructure decisions can have on a person's life. If you're not familiar with suburban Maryland, it can be described in a word: sprawl. (As a kid, you can kiss your independence goodbye. You're not going anywhere without a car).

In my late teens, I began learning GIS and when I started my B.A. in Sociology at the University of Maryland, focusing on stratification, it seemed natural to me that location and spatial policies were big pieces in the puzzle of sustained racial and economic inequality. From then on I became deeply interested in neighborhood effects, the partitioning of urban space, and its impact on the development of social, cultural, and human capital. I'll always appreciate sociology for giving me a critical worldview and teaching me to appreciate the relationship between agency and structure--something the majority of economists I encounter will never understand (though behavioral economists are starting to get it).

When I finished undergrad, I interned for a summer at HUD (PD&R) helping to manage the enterprise GIS. The next fall, I started the Master's program in Community Planning (also at UMD) and began honing my quantitative and coding skills. I also began working on a series of Opportunity Maps for the Baltimore Opportunity Collaborative, which served as the foundation for the region's Plan for Sustainable Development.

As a PhD student I received grants from the Urban Studies department to develop and co-teach two new graduate-level courses on spatial analysis and urban planning technology (along with my colleague Chao Liu). My own coursework focused on housing policy, urban economics, spatial econometrics, and statistical modeling. My dissertation work focused on neighborhood effects, the location decisions of housing voucher recipients, and the challenge of visualizing the Geography of Opportunity. I use MTO and HCV microdata to support these projects.

Currently, I do research at the National Center for Smart Growth where I run our spatial research lab. I'm also working as a consultant for the Urban Institute doing some quantitative analyses of the (Thompson) Baltimore Mobility Program

Lately, I'm really into computational social science, simulation modeling, and writing R and python. I also serve on the steering committee of the Scenario Planning Applications Network


contact me at ek@knaaptime.com

or