St. Catherine University professor receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant for research on housing policies

Marina Gorzig RWJF

Marina Mileo Gorzig, PhD, Assistant Professor of Economics and Political Science at St. Catherine University, has been awarded a grant of $57,000 from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to conduct her research project, “The Impact of Ban the Box on Housing Discrimination.” Funding for the two-year grant, “Policies for Action: Research on Housing Policies that Promote Equity,” officially began on December 1.

“I am somewhat beside myself,” said Gorzig. “It means so much that RWJF found our work compelling and were able to help us on this journey. Access to housing is an incredibly important and difficult issue in Minneapolis. I hope that by assessing the effectiveness of policies designed to increase access to housing, we can help policymakers make better-informed decisions to help our community.”

Planning for the project started in September 2019 when the Minneapolis City Council passed a ban the box policy limiting the use of background checks and credit history specifically in rental housing applications. Gorzig was discussing the new policy over lunch with her friend and colleague Deborah Rho, PhD, from the University of St. Thomas. 

“There is a great deal of research investigating the effects of the ban the box policy on employment discrimination; previous research has found that ban the box policies increase employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated people, but also increase discrimination against young Black and Latino men. However, there is not much research on how the ban the box policy affects housing discrimination,” Gorzig explained. To fill in that gap, Gorzig and Rho are implementing a difference-in-differences evaluation approach to decipher the impacts the new policy has in Minneapolis versus the neighboring St. Paul and surrounding suburbs.

With support from research programs at St. Kate’s and St. Thomas, co-authors Gorzig and Rho were able to start collecting data as early as January 2020. The data collection process, which started partially virtual and shortly turned entirely virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to finish around June of 2021. 

Gorzig delved deeper into the issues of systematic racism and discrimination in the Twin Cities rental market during Summer Scholars 2020 with her student collaborator, Karisa Johnson ’22. “Karisa used a lot of her time to analyze the patterns in discrimination, such as where it’s occurring and on what types of properties,” Gorzig said. “She made a number of maps, figures, and initial analyses that we used in the grant application. Summer Scholars really served as an incubator where we grew our grant application.” 

“I’m grateful that St. Kate's was able to support this project in the early stage. The internal support through the University’s Assistantship Mentoring Program (AMP), Academic Professional Development Committee (APDC), and Summer Scholars was essential in being able to get this grant,” Gorzig said.

“The fact that Professor Gorzig was able to garner such a prestigious award speaks to the strength of her skills as a researcher, teacher, and social justice advocate,” said Tarshia Stanley, PhD, Dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Sciences. “Once again, we see the power of a liberal arts pedagogy at work in the world. The ability to ask a question, apply a disciplinary framework, and yield a constructive practice that changes lives is emblematic of St. Kate's.”


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