Lipman Center Projects

Uncovering Inequality

The Uncovering Inequality project was conceived by Dean Jelani Cobb as a pairing of social science and journalism in the service of highlighting not only the current inequities in American society but their roots and the ways in which these dynamics have been created and recreated over time.

In the tempestuous summer of 2020, the nation witnessed a pandemic, a pandemic-inspired recession and egregious examples of unwarranted use of fatal force by law enforcement. It was readily apparent that communities of color were disproportionately impacted by all three of these concerns. Yet the dialogues around these issues tended to be particular and siloed. A perplexed public asked, “How did we get here?” The answers to that question were as complex and historical as the moment was tumultuous. Uncovering Inequality is one attempt at answering not only that question but looking at where these issues appear to be heading.

In 2021, the Ira A. Lipman Center commissioned five scholars to gather social science data on inequality in the following areas: housing, criminal justice, education, healthcare and economics. The objective was to present a detailed overview of what social science has learned about inequality in these sectors in the 20th century and thus far in the 21st century. The research teams produced comprehensive and seminal reports on their findings, which were then reviewed by a team of advisers and edited by journalists.

The subject areas were not discrete – people’s lives are not discrete. Criminal justice disparities played a role in healthcare and economic disparities, and in turn economic disparities clearly impacted educational disparities and so on. Thus, the reports offer a multitude of story ideas for reporters and news organizations.

Our hope is that both as part of our initial reports, and as a prompt for additional, more contemporary reporting, we will shed light on the mechanisms that produce racial inequality in the United States and how they might be disrupted.

Learn more about the Uncovering Inequality project’s research teams and advisers and view the full reports below. You can also watch the all-day "Uncovering Inequality" symposium held on March 20, 2023, at the Columbia Journalism School.

Uncovering Inequality Research Scholars:

Criminal Justice:

  • Vesla Weaver, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and faculty affiliate of the Justice Collaboratory at Yale University
  • David J. Knight, assistant professor of sociology, Columbia University


  • Damon Jones, associate professor, the University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy
  • Bradley Hardy, associate professor in the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University
  • Dania V. Francis, assistant professor of economics, the University of Massachusetts
  • Fern Ramoutar, economics Ph.D. student at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business


  • Daniel Cumming, post-doctoral fellow program in racism, immigration and citizenship, Johns Hopkins University
  • Nick Graetz, postdoctoral research associate, Princeton University


  • Juontel White, senior vice president of programs and advocacy, Schott Foundation for Public Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Diana Cordova-Cobo, Ph.D. candidate in the sociology and education program at Teachers College, Columbia University


  • Hedwig Lee, professor of sociology, Duke University
  • Michael Esposito, assistant professor of sociology, Washington University, St. Louis
  • Margaret Hicken, research associate professor, Survey Research Center, University of Michigan; faculty associate, Population Studies Center, University of Michigan; research associate professor, internal medicine, Medical School; research associate professor, epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Michigan

Uncovering Inequality Advisers:

  • N. D. B. Connolly, Herbert Baxter Adams Chair and associate professor of history, Johns Hopkins University
  • Mary R. Jackman, professor emerita and research professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis
  • Khalil Gibran Muhammad, professor of history, race and public policy at Harvard Kennedy School of Government
  • Suresh Naidu, professor of economics and public affairs, Columbia University
  • Samuel K. Roberts, director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies, associate professor history and associate professor sociomedical sciences, Columbia University
  • Kimberlee Shauman, professor of sociology, the University of California, Davis
  • Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, associate professor of English education at Teachers College, Columbia University
  • Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, professor of African American Studies, Princeton University

Full reports available (PDF):

Whose Vote Counts

The vulnerability of the sacred right to vote in the United States was exposed during the 2020 presidential election. PBS FRONTLINE spent a year investigating voter suppression in collaboration with documentary filmmaker June Cross of the Columbia Journalism School, Columbia Journalism Investigations, USA Today and Dean & Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism Jelani Cobb, former director of Columbia’s Ira A. Lipman Center for Journalism and Civil and Human Rights. 

The film “Whose Vote Counts” debuted Oct. 20, 2020. The Lipman Center held a panel discussion on the work in November with Steve Coll, then-dean of Columbia Journalism School, as moderator, and panelists Jelani Cobb, June Cross, Tom Jennings of Frontline, and Steve Stirling of CJI. "Whose Vote Counts" won a Peabody Award in 2021.

See additional Lipman Center projects and videos of recent and past events.