PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] —Gray Brakke, a rising senior at Brown University, has spent the summer mapping a problem not many people know about — the increasingly suburban nature of poverty and a frequent lack of services available to low-income people who reside outside of urban centers.
Brakke, an urban studies concentrator from Northville, Michigan, with experience in geographic information system (GIS) mapping, worked with Margaret Weir, a professor of international and public affairs and political science at Brown. He created visual maps of metropolitan areas that analyze how organizations — human service agencies, affordable housing organizations, food banks and employment centers, for example — serve low-income communities in cities and the suburbs surrounding them.
The student and professor had not worked together previously, but Brakke, who knew he wanted to explore suburban poverty as a thesis topic, discovered Weir’s research on spatial socioeconomic inequality last fall and proposed a joint project.
“Gray came across a description of my work and came to talk to me,” Weir said. “We both agreed it would be great.”
The two outlined a proposal and won an Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award (UTRA) to launch into the work this summer. Brakke used data that Weir had collected on three metropolitan areas — Chicago, Atlanta and Houston — to create comprehensive maps that allow a viewer to understand the socioeconomic make-up of each place alongside the types of social services available there.