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Chicago Tonight future of cities

Mansueto Director Joins Big Brains Podcast to Discuss UN Goals

October 21, 2021

With so many major crises of today, it may surprise people that the world has made significant progress on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which the international body ratified in 2015. That includes reducing poverty and hunger and improving public health and life expectancy, Luis Bettencourt, director of the Mansueto Institute, said. At the same time the pandemic has set back the goals of education and gender equity, as schools were disrupted and women took on increased childcare. Bettencourt, director of the Mansueto Institute, joined University of Chicago’s “Big Brains” podcast with Chris Williams, director of the New York office of UN Habitat, and host Paul Rand.

Bettencourt notes that cities are playing a big role in advancing SDGs: “[W]hen you talk about many of the crises, and many of the challenges ahead, [it] is really something that’s happening through the experience of people living in cities,” he said. “Cities are also waking up to their power of transforming people’s lives, but also the consequences of their actions for the planet.”

Chicago Tonight future of cities

Mansueto Scholars Talk About the Future of Cities on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight"

October 5, 2021

Luis Bettencourt and Sabina Shaikh joined WTTW’s Chicago Tonight to discuss the future of Chicago and other cities on Oct. 5. They spoke as part of Urban October about how cities should plan for the future in the face of challenges like changing work patterns caused by the pandemic, climate change, economic inequality, and rising violence. “This is a tremendous opportunity to take stock, learn, and reinvent cities,” said Bettencourt. “The cities of the future will have to be sustainable in the sense that they have greater equity…and how they provide services in ways that are better for people, but also have a constructive relationship with the environment. We have a tremendous opportunity in the next few years ahead. It will require everyone’s knowledge and action, and Chicago should be an example for that.”

Dr. Sabina Shaikh Talks Impact of Climate Change on Global Migration

July 28, 2021

Dr. Sabina Shaikh, Director of UChicago’s Program on Global Environment, sat down with WTTW to discuss climate-motivated migration. Shaikh discussed the future of climate refugees–people that have been forced to migrate or displaced by acts of climate change, such as natural disasters or rising sea levels. The roots of climate migration go much deeper than just natural events, as people with less socioeconomic resources are often the most vulnerable populations to forced displacement.

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August News: Intro to Urban Science Book Release, Opportunities for Students

August 15, 2021

Read our latest newsletter featuring the release of Introduction to Urban Science, a new book from Institute Director Dr. Luis Bettencourt. Additionally, check out Andrew Stier, Marc Berman, and Dr. Bettencourt’s “Lower Rates of Depression” paper in the news and learn more about new and exciting research opportunities for students with the Urban Research Corps and the Kreisman Fellowship.

U. of C. Study Offers Evidence for Lower Rates of Depression in Large U.S. Cities: 'It's Not About the Person. It's About the Environment.'

Check out a new article from the Chicago Tribune featuring Andrew Stier, Marc Berman, and Luis Bettencourt’s new study about rates of depression in urban environments. Their study creates a novel model for approaching mental health in cities that focuses on the types of networks and environments people are in rather than the people themselves.

The Bigger the City, the Lower the Depression Rates?

A new article from U.S. News and World Report discusses the study from Andrew Stier, Marc Berman, and Luis Bettencourt about depression rates in cities. Researchers created a mathematical model to view mental health in urban environments through the lens of social frameworks, arguing that the dense social networks and social interactions found in urban environments help to lower depression rates.

UofC Researchers Find Lower Rates of Depression in Cities in New Study

Watch researcher Marc Berman interview with Fox32 about the new study from Andrew Stier, Berman, and Luis Bettencourt about rates of depression in urban areas. Berman discusses the new revelations about lower rates of depression in cities due to dense social networks and rich potential for human interaction. He also talks about their brand-new model for examining mental health within an urban framework.

July News: Lower Depression in Cities, Solar Potential in the Galapagos

Read our latest newsletter with new journal publications exploring lower depression rates in large cities, the relationship between metro-processes and neighborhood change, new low-cost solar power modeling, and growing COVID-19 rates in urban environments. Additionally, check out Mansueto’s Dr. Sabina Shaikh’s conversation with WTTW about the future of climate migration and a new pilot from Array of Things in partnership with Microsoft Urban Research addressing Chicago air quality.

Array of Things Partners with Microsoft and JCDecaux on New Air Quality Pilot in Chicago

Array of Things and Microsoft Research’s Urban Innovation Group recently announced a partnership with JCDecaux, a leading outdoor advertising company, to launch a pilot program to track air quality in Chicago. The team created a set of air quality sensors on 100 Chicago bus shelters, which will precisely monitor air quality throughout the city and whose data will be used to adapt environmental measures.

Living in the Big City May Help Fight Depression

A new article from The Times London features the recent study from Andrew Stier, Marc Berman, and Luis Bettencourt about lower rates of depression in cities. Researchers discovered that increasing a city population by 100 percent yields only an 85 percent increase in cases of depression. This discrepancy is most likely caused by the rich networks and potential for social interaction in dense, urban environments like cities. Read more here.

The Link Between Green Space and Designing Cities for Psychological Well-being

Marc Berman, lead of the Urban Cognition Lab, is featured in New Scientist discussing the mental health boost we get from urban green space. Berman’s research points to specific design and policy interventions cities can use to make nature more accessible and equitable, from making green spaces multipurpose to meet a variety of needs to incorporating patterns found in nature into architecture, and factoring the value of these ecosystem services benefits into economic decision-making.

UChicago Mansueto Institute, MPC and Brookings Awarded NSF Civic Innovation Challenge Planning Grant

The University of Chicago Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, Metropolitan Planning Council and Brookings Institution were awarded a $50,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support research on “Overcoming Mobility Inequity with New Open-Access Tools for Analyzing Spatial Accessibility” as part of the first phase of the NSF Civic Innovation Challenge.

Norman Foster Foundation Presents the ‘On Cities’ Masterclass Series

Luis Bettencourt joins the Norman Foster Foundation’s Masterclass Series ‘On Cities,’ featuring leading experts in the fields of architecture, urbanism, economics and mobility exploring the most compelling urban topics of our time. Watch Professor Bettencourt’s lecture on the challenges of current and future cities, such as injustice and segregation, and in turn the opportunities we must seize ahead.

WTTW News: How to Stay Informed and Avoid Burnout from 24-7 Media

Trauma Interest Working Group lead and University of Chicago psychiatry professor, Candice Norcott, was on WTTW News to discuss strategies for coping with a distressing news cycle and reducing potential traumatic effects. Watch the interview to learn more.

The Ethics of Reopening K-12 Schools During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In a recent event during the Trauma Interest Working Group Speaker Series hosted by the Mansueto Institute, Prof. Lainie Friedman Ross of UChicago Medicine shared her research on the costs of K-12 school closures. She highlights that these costs are borne disproportionately by students, families and school personnel from vulnerable populations – many of whom rely on schools for resources other than learning. Read the highlights from this talk.

UChicago Computer Science Team Receives $1.2M to Map the Digital Divide in Chicago

The Center for Data and Computing received a $1.2 million grant from data.org to map and mitigate the urban digital divide. Working in partnership with the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, Chicago Public Schools, civic nonprofit organization Kids First, urban solutions accelerator City Tech Collaborative, and UChicago Office of Civic Engagement, CDAC researchers will pinpoint gaps in digital infrastructure and build a toolkit to help civic organizations make informed decisions about how to narrow the digital divide.

Urbanization in and for the Anthropocene

This inaugural article of the new journal npj Urban Sustainability co-authored by Luis Bettencourt gives key insights on needs in urban regional governance. Responding to the challenges of urbanization demands fresh commitments to a city–regional perspective in ways that are explicitly embedded in the Anthropocene bio- techno- and noospheres, to extend existing understanding of the city–nature nexus and regional scale.

2020 Year In Review

The year 2020 will be remembered as a time when our societies were severely tested, not only in terms of health response to the pandemic, but especially our collective thinking and action on issues of equity and justice. Read a letter from our director Luis Bettencourt.

Scaling Analysis of Service Access in Indian Urban Slums

The emergence of India as an urbanized nation is one of the most significant socioeconomic and political processes of the 21st century. In this paper, authors Sahasranaman and Bettencourt analyze data from the Census of India using the framework of urban scaling to systematically characterize the relative properties of Indian urban slums.

UChicago Urban Network Hosts Second Annual Urban October

The Chicago Maroon looks back at Urban October at the University of Chicago, where we explored—from a diversity of viewpoints—ways to respond to the challenge of creating better cities, better lives, and value for communities.

CBS2 Chicago: The Problem with Polls

Mansueto Institute lead data scientist Nicholas Marchio was on CBS Chicago to discuss whether or not the polls got it right. (They didn’t.) Watch this video to find out what happened, and whether we can trust them in the future.

How To Finally Start Saving the Planet

In the Chicago Tribune, check out 19 steps on how to finally start saving the planet, according to environmental experts and UChicago Program on the Global Environment Professors Sabina Shaikh and Evan Carver.

Should you trust the 2020 election polls? Yes, but...

How much can we trust polls in 2020? Mansueto Institute data scientist Nicholas Marchio breaks down election forecasting and campaign data for UChicago News, explaining how good polling works and why it’s useful.

EFCampus Student Researchers Help UChicago Improve Campus Sustainability

This summer, nine undergraduate students turned their environmental commitments into campus actions through the Environmental Frontiers Campus program. Students collaborated remotely with University of Chicago faculty and staff for 10 weeks researching energy and water use at the University.

Breaking Down Election Forecasting on NewsNation

“With polling, there is always a margin of error, and that margin of error can be consequential when the races are so close such as in 2016 and in swing states like WI, MI, PA and FL.” Mansueto Institute lead data scientist Nicholas Marchio weighs in on election forecasting on WGN America’s NewsNation.

Coronavirus in the U.S.: Where the hotspots are now and where to expect new ones

Center for Spatial Data Science’s Marynia Kolak speaks on NPR’s All Things Considered about county-level hot spots of Coronavirus, particularly on spillover happening in border areas like the Mississippi River area from Memphis, Tennessee to Arkansas.

Study Compares Urban Quality of Life and COVID-19 Rates

The Mansueto Institute’s Human Development Index project has been named Innovation of the Month by MetroLab Network and Government Technology magazine. Find out how we’re measuring people’s quality of life at the neighborhood level and how it intersects with the COVID-19 pandemic.

#NFFStories Podcast: The Social Essence of Cities

On #NFFStories, Luis Bettencourt highlights the social essence of cities, looking at space as a platform. Listen to Norman Foster Foundation’s podcast here.

ABC 7 Chicago: Some communities where essential workers live being hit hard by COVID-19 infections and deaths

Neil Sheth, Mansueto Institute Doctoral Fellow and UChicago Pritzker School of Medicine MD-PhD candidate, joins ABC 7 Chicago’s I-TEAM report on how Chicago communities where essential workers live are being hit hard by COVID-19. Watch the full video.

COVID 2025: How COVID-19 Will Change Life in Cities

The latest episode of UChicago’s “COVID 2025” video series features Luis Bettencourt, Mansueto Institute Inaugural Director, who discusses how COVID-19 will challenge and change cities in the next 5 years. Watch the video here.

Designs on Solidarity

“How can phrases such as ‘in solidarity’ truly activate an ethics of care in all aspects of our lives?” Nicole Rosner, Mansueto Fellow, and Daniela Rosner, of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) of the University of Washington, consider how designers should reflect and adapt in the age of COVID-19. Read more in Interactions Magazine.

Coronavirus is hitting larger cities harder. How should they respond?

New analysis from Luis Bettencourt and Urban Cognition Lab researchers Marc Berman and Andrew Stier quantifies how COVID-19 has attacked large U.S. cities at much higher rates. Although large cities are dealing with faster growing outbreaks, they may also have the socioeconomic institutions and infrastructure to respond more aggressively.

Chicago Tribune: Many cities around the globe saw cleaner air after being shut down for COVID-19. But not Chicago.

Why hasn’t air pollution in Chicago decreased at the same rate as in other major cities? As scientists test new theories, UChicago researchers plan to install additional Array of Things nodes to measure air quality around Chicago and locate “pollution hot spots.”

The Globe and Mail: Why isn’t California’s coronavirus crisis as bad as New York’s? Size doesn’t tell the whole story.

Density, decisive action and luck are all factors in why the West Coast’s outbreaks are less terrifying than the East’s so far. Read more in The Globe and Mail about Luis Bettencourt and University of Chicago colleagues’ findings on the spread of COVID-19 in cities.

Vox: The coronavirus may hit rural America later — and harder

Rural communities “tend to be older, with more chronic illness,” making people more at risk of severe Covid-19. A new map of confirmed cases and deaths nationwide from the University of Chicago’s Center for Spatial Data Science shows a disturbing trend.

State-level data misses growing coronavirus hot spots in U.S., including in the South

Though urban areas like New York City are getting the lion’s share of media attention for their coronavirus outbreaks, researchers at the University of Chicago Center for Spatial Data Science find there are rapidly forming hot spots across the United States, including in southern states such as Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi.

Scientific American: Map Reveals Hidden U.S. Hotspots of Coronavirus Infection

By adjusting for population, researchers at the University of Chicago’s Center for Spatial Data Science have identified rural areas in several states that could be disproportionally affected by COVID-19.

Uber and Lyft Are Convenient, Competitive and Highly Carbon Intensive

Ride sharing cuts emissions, but not everyone wants to share. Mansueto Institute director Luis Bettencourt weighs in on the climate impact of ride-hailing companies in InsideClimate News.

Next City: Mapping Tech Could Formalize Settlements for One Billion People

The UN estimates that one billion people worldwide live in informal settlements, which lack adequate access to street networks. The Million Neighborhoods map analyzes city blocks in these informal neighborhoods to estimate where streets are needed to catch up with their formal counterparts.

Act Locally, Learn Globally: Luis Bettencourt on Building from the Community Up

Read more about Luis Bettencourt’s approach to studying cities as complex systems on World Resources Institute’s blog, TheCityFix, on urban sustainability and development.

ChiHackNight: Million Neighborhoods Map

Satej Soman and Cooper Nederhood, part of the Mansueto Institute’s data and research team, recently presented the Million Neighborhoods Map and their work on mapping slums and informal settlements on a global scale at Chi Hack Night to Chicago’s civic tech community. Watch the video of their presentation.

Luis Bettencourt and the Million Neighborhoods Map in El País

El físico que se propuso estudiar un millón de barrios para mejorar las ciudades. Read about the Million Neighborhoods Map and Luis Bettencourt’s research in El País.

Fear of Math Can Outweigh Promise of Higher Rewards

New research in Science Advances from Mansueto Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Kyoung Whan Choe and the University of Chicago’s Jalisha Jenifer and Psychology Professor Marc Berman produces the first experimental evidence linking math anxiety and math avoidance, and insights on how to break this relationship in order to increase interest and success in STEM fields.

Obama Scholar helps his native Nepal adapt to climate change

Dipak Bishwokarma has spent years helping communities in his native Nepal adapt to climate change. Along the way—working with local residents, non-profits and government agencies—the University of Chicago graduate student learned that doing so requires more than just a technical understanding of the environmental impacts. He shared more at the Global Symposium on Sustainable Cities and Neighborhoods.

Reuters: African Slum Map Exposes True Scale of Urban Poverty

The project aims to map the whole world – eventually – and become a tool for better city planning as mayors decide which areas most need sewers, roads and other basics. Read more in this article by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

2019 Year in Review

The year 2019 marks the end of our second annual cycle: It was a busy year, characterized by fast growth and development. In the spirit of a new decade of progress and possibilities, here’s a countdown of memorable moments at the Mansueto Institute this past year.

The Evolution of the Galápagos

What was it like to research urbanization on the Galápagos this summer? UChicago College website features our undergraduate student researchers in this great article. Partnering with Mapillary, the team captured street-level images to gather data on urbanization and sustainable development on the islands.

2019 Galápagos Urbanization & Sustainable Development Study

A cohort of four University of Chicago undergraduate research assistants and faculty advisors will embark on the second annual Galápagos Urbanization & Sustainable Development study. The 6-week research study, led jointly by the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation and the Program on the Global Environment (PGE), will explore evolution of the built environment and resource consumption on the Galápagos Islands. Read more.

Global Sustainability Summer School

The 2019 Global Sustainability Summer School is an intensive two-week program on urban sustainability and technological innovations driving global, sustainable development. Hosted at the Santa Fe Institute in partnership with the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, the program provides an immersive experience for participants to explore interdisciplinary and forward-looking approaches to urban sustainability.

How the principles of topology can help improve the world's slums

Around the world, informal settlements stem from all sorts of social and economic ills that don’t have easy solutions. But, these communities share a common trait: a lack of connectivity. Luis Bettencourt and a group of research partners have been exploring that as a math problem, and developing new tools that use topology to improve conditions in these urban areas. Read this PNAS article for more.

The Fabric of Our Lives

What’s the mathematical model behind our streets and neighborhoods? Is it possible to create the topology of a universally accessible city? Read more in Luis Bettencourt, Christa Breslford and Taylor Martin’s latest article in SIAM News, the journal for the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics.

Norman Foster Foundation: On Cities Debates

Luis Bettencourt was appointed this year’s mentor for the On Cities Workshop organized by the Norman Foster Foundation in Madrid, Spain, held May 27 – 31, 2019. The Foundation hosted the On Cities Public Debates, chaired by Luis Bettencourt, where speakers from architecture and urban planning discussed issues surrounding informal settlements in urban contexts and the possibilities for transformation offered by technological innovation.

Bettencourt and Sahasranaman attempt the first detailed analysis of Indian cities as complex systems

In a world of rapid urbanization and population growth, India stands at the forefront of urban and population growth. In this paper, “Urban geography and scaling of contemporary Indian cities”, Luis Bettencourt and Anand Sahasranaman set forth the first detailed analysis of Indian cities as complex systems, bringing together under a common framework a quantitative and comprehensive assessment of urban attributes.

Wired Magazine: The Excruciating, Impossible Science of Airport Delays

Do flight delays pose an economic burden alone on airlines, or is there a larger social and urban cost involved? 
Luis Bettencourt discusses how flight delays have unforeseen effects on the influence, logistics, and economies of large cities in this article by Wired Magazine.

Why a 1925 book is still relevant to urban sociology

Nearly a century ago, Robert E. Park and Ernest Burgess co-authored what was to become a seminal text for the Chicago school of sociology. The City cemented both scholars as pioneers in the field and formalized a methodological, data-driven approach that has shaped the study of cities across space and time. Learn more about its impact on contemporary scholars and continuing relevance in a rapidly urbanizing world.

Luis Bettencourt and the Power of Physics

How is physics – a field that generated foundational discoveries in antiquity that are still evolving today – driving modern innovation? Luis Bettencourt discusses beginning his academic career in the study of physics, and how it now helps him to think about cities in a distinct way.

How Mapping in the Galapagos Could Create More Sustainable Cities

Mansueto Institute researchers spent the summer in the Galapagos studying how human development can be sustainably managed to coexist with the environment. Over the course of four weeks, our team gathered drone and satellite imagery to create 3D topographical models of one of the largest towns in the Islands. Analyzing this data and changes over time may inform sustainable development practices in the Galapagos and beyond. Read more and watch the video.

Blog Post: Read more about the UChicago Urbanists Group led by Students at the College

Jein Park, class of 2020, founded the UChicago Urbanists in Fall 2017 with the goal of creating a dedicated space for undergraduates to engage in conversations about urbanism and cities. Lean more about how this student group is exchanging perspectives on vital issues that face cities today, ranging across urban worker populations all the way to neighborhood crime.

Discussion Video: A Conversation on the Future of Cities

Watch the video from our fall Urban Innovations event, which brought together Nicholas Negroponte and Carol Coletta to discuss innovative solutions to pressing issues faced by cities around the world. With moderation by Luis Bettencourt, the panelists explored technological advances, community-oriented interventions, and where the two can be integrated to achieve common goals.

Apply for the 2019 Global Sustainability Summer School

The Mansueto Institute is partnering with the Santa Fe Institute to sponsor the 2019 Global Sustainability Summer School, an intensive two-week program on issues of urban sustainability and technological innovations driving global, sustainable development. The school is for participants who seek background and hands-on experience to help them prepare to conduct interdisciplinary research in areas related to urban sustainability. Learn more and apply today.

Math Helps Sprawling Cities Grow Sustainably And Reduce Slum Conditions

Check out the Forbes coverage of Luis Bettencourt’s participation in research analyzing community maps, satellite imagery and municipal data from a dozen cities to create a general new tool for urban planning. The study identifies key properties of street networks in order to develop the most efficient ways to build roads and water, gas and sanitation infrastructure in existing slums to quickly improve the quality of life for underserved residents.

Scientists Develop Tools to Bring Infrastructure to Slums

Of the estimated 4 billion people living in urban areas worldwide, nearly a billion reside in slums. A coalition of researchers analyzed community maps, satellite imagery and municipal data from a dozen cities to create a general new tool for urban planning. The resulting study identifies key properties of street networks in order to develop the most efficient ways to build roads and water, gas and sanitation infrastructure in existing slums to quickly improve the quality of life for underserved residents.

Cities as Systems: Seminar Recap

Over the summer, Juval Portugali, a leading researcher in adapting complexity theory to the study of cities, joined the Mansueto Institute to give a lecture on cognition, information, and the city. Read the insightful reflections from UChicago faculty who attended, and a recap of big ideas Professor Portugali shared.

Students and UChicago Scientists Turn Wrigley Field into Data Lab

Array of Things researchers worked with students from Lane Technical College Prep High School on building, programming and deploying their own sensor “nodes,” gaining hands-on experience with technologies that helps scientists better understand cities

Urban Innovations Event Video

Part of the Mansueto Institute’s Urban Innovations Series, watch the dynamic discussion between First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray and Institute of Politics Fellow Dr. Nneka Jones-Tapia on the challenges that face incarcerated women, and the innovative solutions in New York and Chicago.

New Gift from David and Susan Kreisman Will Support Expansion of Kreisman Initiative for Housing Law and Policy

Thanks to a $5 million gift from David Kreisman, AB ’60, JD ’63, and his wife, Susan, the University of Chicago’s Kreisman Initiative for Housing Law and Policy will expand to include new programs aimed at advancing housing scholarship.

Firewall Podcast with Bradley Tusk

Luis Bettencourt joins host Bradley Tusk to discuss cities as their own type of technology, bringing people together to interact, collaborate, and produce collectively, and repeat on a fast daily rhythm.

Mansueto Institute Joins 2018 CityXChange Summit

Luis Bettencourt joined global city, technology and venture capital leaders to share innovative ideas that lay the groundwork for cities and technology companies to better collaborate in the future.

2018 Venice Biennale

University of Chicago and School of the Art Institute will serve as commissioners of the United States Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale.

Knowledge Applied Podcast

Science combines with data to reveal the complexity of cities.

The circular economy could save life on Earth – starting with our cities

Imagine a future where human prosperity does not translate into sacrificing nature. A world with no wastes, no pollution, where animals and plants on land and in the oceans prosper from the existence of humans as much as we do from the biology and geophysics of the Earth. Is this impossible? Or must life on Earth be a zero-sum game between humanity and other species?

The Math Behind a Localized Approach to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

World Urban Forum 9 convened earlier this year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to take the measure of our fast-urbanizing world. Central to all discussions was how to create human sustainable development worldwide through better cities as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the New Urban Agenda. At this point, the problem of implementing the goals is not if but how? Let’s do the math: This will reveal the kind of framework necessary.

The city is not a massive machine

Luis Bettencourt speaks about how transit-oriented development can create sustainable megacities.