Research in Community Development

December 22, 2014
By Mwai Malindi, Research Associate

Biannual reports give service providers, policymakers, academics and others a unique gauge to assess changes in economic and financial conditions of the LMI population over time.


Community development work is guided by common questions. How can the economic situation of local residents be improved? How can a community’s quality of life be enhanced? Does the community believe conditions are declining or improving? Measuring the financial health of individuals and households only provides part of the picture. The rest focuses on how the community is faring as a whole. Research can address these questions and affect positive change by engaging the community in the creation of knowledge.

The research component of the Federal Reserve System’s community development function plays an integral role in supporting the objective of fostering economic growth and opportunity for individuals at all income levels. Community development research focuses on the challenging issues affecting the economic prospects in low-and-moderate income (LMI) communities. Such issues include, job availability, affordable housing, access to credit and services, among others.

The community development research group at the Kansas City Fed produces biannual reports that capture economic and financial conditions faced by Tenth District residents. As an unbiased source, this research enhances public awareness and understanding of some of the most pressing issues. In an evolving financial system, decision makers need valuable insights and relevant information to make informed decisions. The Consumer Credit Report chronicles trends and factors driving consumer debt in each of the seven states in the District.

Community-based research promotes inclusion as it aims to understand the experiences of LMI workers and families that were highly impacted by the recent recession. With special attention to the LMI community, research reports also include the Tenth District LMI Index and Tenth District LMI Labor Force Report. These biannual reports provide service providers, policymakers and others a unique gauge to assess changes in economic and financial conditions of the LMI population over time.

Policymakers are provided with another lens into research that can help them identify new policy approaches and impacts. Additionally, the research serves a mechanism to further inform scholarly audiences about the role of community and economic development. Research staff publishes research papers on a variety of topics ranging from student loans and pay day lending to small business development and other challenges faced by LMI individuals. This research informs outreach by bringing together community stakeholders to explore prospective solutions and engage in policy discussions with community leaders and advocacy groups.

Community development practices can be strengthened through the use and collection of data. Whether it’s assessing current local conditions in developing an effective strategy or evaluating resulting impacts, data is an important tool. As such, research can assist these efforts by providing data that are easily consumable and highly accessible. Map Your Community allows users to create custom maps of their communities from an overlay of over 30 data indicators.

Learn more about our community research.