Disparity is emerging as the most important urban issue of our time in Houston and in urban settings around the world. Unfortunately, disparate income, opportunity and access to basic needs such as public transportation, health care, education and parks has always been a characteristic of urban life. In recent years, however, urban disparity has become even more pronounced in Houston and other cities, and there’s an increasing desire for a greater understanding of — and solutions to — the problem.

The Kinder Institute’s Urban Disparity & Opportunity Program views disparity as a crosscutting issue that should be addressed through four sequential steps:

  1. Documenting issues of disparity in Houston
  2. Conducting research to identify the determinants and causes of disparity
  3. Convening and engaging both leaders and residents in a discussion about issues of disparity and promising solutions
  4. Identifying ideas and potential actions that could provide opportunities and improve the lives of Houstonians struggling with disparity

In a metropolitan area such as Houston, disparity typically manifests itself by geography. Problems such as poverty, struggling schools, and insufficient health care aren’t evenly distributed throughout a metropolitan region. Rather, they are often concentrated in particular areas, following distinct, spatial patterns. One of the most important early efforts of the Urban Disparity & Opportunity program will be to document spatial disparities, including disparate public infrastructure investments as well as disparate socioeconomic outcomes.