DCRP Master's Project Preview

UNC’s top-ranked master’s program is designed to successfully prepare students for professional planning practice. A central component of the curriculum is a final capstone project, an ‘MP,’ which provides an opportunity for students to apply the skills and knowledge they’ve developed in the classroom and demonstrate their readiness for practice. But the MP is also a space for students to engage with pressing social and institutional challenges that affect real-world communities.

Current second-years Kaitlin Heatwole and Paul Liu are both working on projects with real-world applications in underserved communities. A preview of their MPs illustrates the breadth of research being done at UNC and the ways in which the DCRP program aims to develop planners that are both successful and socially-engaged.


Transportation Disadvantage of Refugees in the Research Triangle of North Carolina (Kaitlin Heatwole)

Building on transportation equity research that was conducted with refugees in Vermont (Bose 2014) and Ontario (Farber et al 2018), I’m surveying refugees who have settled in the Research Triangle to learn more about how they get around. Specifically, I’m interested in modes of travel, travel times, and barriers they face to access work, school, groceries, child care, healthcare, social connections, and other destinations. Results of this multi-lingual survey will identify patterns of refugees’ travel behaviors and recommend steps that public transit, housing, and other service agencies can take to meet the transportation, housing, and employment needs of this group.

Retiree In-Migration and Low-Wage Job Growth (Paul Liu)

In many areas of the U.S., the number of seniors and retirees is growing relative to other age cohorts. This demographic shift can have wide-ranging implications on regional labor markets and economic development more broadly. Because retirees do not participate in the labor force but still demand goods and services, some have argued that retirees’ consumption patterns drive demand for low-wage and part-time labor. However, up-to-date research on the effect of retiree spending habits on regional labor markets is surprisingly limited. To fill this gap, I am developing an econometric analysis using publicly available data to determine whether there is, in fact, a causal relationship between retiree in-migration and the number of low-wage jobs. These results will provide a valuable and much-needed understanding of the relationship between retiree in-migration and regional job quality.