Applied Community-Based Research
The Flint Study
Current census estimates indicate that Flint’s population stands at just under 97,000 people, down from a peak of roughly 196,000 people during the mid-1950s. Only a small fraction of other large Americans cities, among them Detroit, have experienced such outsized losses in population density. Like Detroit, Flint—wielding the moniker of “Vehicle City” against Detroit’s “Motor City” banner—once had a sprawling industrial base fed chiefly by the presence of General Motors, an automaker which once employed over half of Flint’s residents.
What is Flint in 2019? What will it be a decade from now? The Flint Study, also known as the Flint Community Engagement Project, aims to better understand these intricate questions–the ebb-and-flow of local development, growth, disinvestment, and recession–and how change and opportunity manifest over time. The project, initiated in the summer of 2017, involves a series of community-focused interviews and surveys with residents and community stakeholders in Flint. Endeavoring to move beyond academic tropes around Flint’s “broken windows,” this research employs a strengths-based typology in engaging with participants, balancing the pursuit of sociological insights with the pursuit of meaningful public policy applications and bi-directional communication.
The Flint Study is led by Jerel Ezell, MPH, MA, a Flint native and current doctoral student at the University of Chicago, Department of Sociology (and researcher at the University of Chicago, Department of Medicine). The project is funded by the Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, the Pozen Family Center for Human Rights, and the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture (all at the University of Chicago). Inestimable intellectual support and contributions for The Flint Study come from Anna Mueller, PhD (Indiana University), Kristen Schilt, PhD (University of Chicago) and Bruce Link, PhD (University of California – Riverside).