Skid Rows or Suburban Services: How the Spatial Concentration of Antipoverty Nonprofits Can Explain Sector Size

WCPC Seminar Series on Poverty and Policy: Winter 2010

Presented by Nicole Esparza
Assistant Professor of Policy, Planning, and Development
University of Southern California
Monday, February 1, 2010  12:30 - 1:30 p.m., questions / discussion until 2:00 p.m.
Parrington Hall Forum, Room 309
University of Washington


Nicole Esparza, Ph.D., is an assistant professor at the University of Southern California's School of Policy, Planning and Development. She teaches courses on public policy and management and program evaluation. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University in 2007 and spent the past two years as a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar at Harvard University.

Nicole’s dissertation examined homeless assistance nonprofits in twenty-six metropolitan areas with a special focus on organizational networks in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Philadelphia. Her current research asks two major questions: How do social, economic, and political forces shape the size and growth of the urban nonprofit sector? How do interorganizational dynamics influence the effectiveness and distribution of services?

Her work has been published in the American Sociological Review and has received support from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


This paper examines the spatial distribution and size of homeless service sectors in twenty-six metropolitan areas. The two issues are interrelated in that where the sector is geographically constrained, the sector is boxed-in, limiting its size in ways that are decoupled from need for services. The paper explains these patterns of outcomes by the beggar thy neighbor dynamics of fragmented governance and the NIMBYism catalyzed by segregation and home ownership. Finally, it closes with a discussion of the difficulties public managers face when pursuing fair-share policies for dealing with chronic urban problems.