Claire Dunning on Nonprofit Neighborhoods and Urban Inequality

If you live in a city in the United States, chances are you’ve encountered one or more non-profit organizations in your community. Maybe you’ve volunteered for a local non-profit serving LGBTQ youth, or, as many have been doing recently, donated money to a women’s health organization, run by a non-profit. Even if you don’t live in a city, you’re likely familiar with the valuable work non-profits perform in areas ranging from housing, education, job-training, financial services, and much, much more. The sheer number of non-profit organizations operating in U.S. cities can make it hard to imagine an alternative to this contemporary situation, and why we might want one.

Yet, that’s precisely what Claire Dunning does in this episode explaining how and why non-profits came to play such an important role in U.S. cities in the decades after World War II. In doing so, she explores the emergence of non-profit neighborhoods amid various changes in urban policy, starting with urban renewal and continuing through the War on Poverty and the rise of community development corporations. While acknowledging all of the important work done by non-profits, the book also draws attention to a central paradox of our reliance on non-profits to address a range of social issues: the dramatic expansion in non-profits has coincided with rising poverty and inequality, rather than their eradication. 

Check out the episode here!

Claire Dunning is an Assistant Professor of public policy and history at the University of Maryland, College Park. She is the author of Nonprofit Neighborhoods: An Urban History of Inequality and the American State.

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