Richard Smith

Faculty Profile

Associate Professor


(313) 577-2262


Dr. Richard Smith is a native of Michigan. His research interests include sustainable community development, inequality, and migration. Dr. Smith's research is published in the Journal of Human Behavior and the Social Environment and Administration in Social Work and Child and Youth Services Review. He currently serves as a core advisor for the International Ecocity Standards project of Ecocity Builders, Inc.

His dissertation research at the University of California, Berkeley, analyzed the impact of Empowerment Zones and Renewal Community tax incentives that promoted sustainable community development by hiring local workers and investing in neighborhoods with high poverty. Dr. Smith also held research appointments at the California Social Work Education Center and the University of California Labor Center. While earning his doctorate he also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and San Jose State University.

Before pursuing his doctorate, he served as a Presidential Management Intern at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, D.C., where he obtained a professional certificate in economic development finance from the National Development Council.

While studying for his master of social work, Dr. Smith obtained a Ford Foundation community development internship through the National Congress for Community Economic Development in Cleveland, Ohio. Smith also worked in Mongolia, where he served in the U.S. Peace Corps training English teachers; managed the Spring English Language Center; and consulted for UNICEF and a World Bank/UNDP project.

Dr. Smith has had advanced training in spatial statistics (R-spatial, OpenGeoDA), non-parametric matching (GenMatch), and geographic information science (GIS). He is an advocate of using GNU/General Public License software and Creative Commons licenses because they promote a public intellectual commons consistant with academic and social work values.

Click here to view Curriculum Vitae

Degrees and Certifications

  • Ph.D., Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley
  • M.S.W., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • M.F.A., Creative Writing, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo
  • B.A., English Language and Literature, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Teaching Interests

  • Social welfare policy
  • Social work methods of practice

Research Project

Dr. Smith has three overlapping lines of research that involve local, national and international collaborations:

1) Local Governments as Immigrant Recruiters: Dr. Smith is working with Wayne State University students to compile a database of local governments that are actively welcoming or literally attempting to recruit immigrants to purchase homes, start businesses or contribute to needed skills in the workplace. Are these policies mostly a response to urban decline, pressure from civil society, or a genuine skills mismatch in the workforce? If possible, we will use the data to determine the impact of any of these policies and make recommendations based on our findings.

2) Community Measures of Inequality and Sustainability: Research suggests that inequality negatively affects human well being and creates an unsustainable environment. Measures of inequality of places may change depending on where one draws the line on the map. Dr. Smith is working with Sergio Rey at the Arizona State University School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning to find applications for the spatial decomposition of the Gini index, a measure of the relative inequality of places in a region. Furthermore, Dr. Smith is a core advisor for the International Ecocity Standards Framework project of Ecocity Builders. This project combines community organizing, ecocity mapping, and indicators to promote sustainability in human settlements. The draft sustainability standards framework will be presented to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro in June of 2012.

3) Age Friendly Communities: Dr. Smith is also a consultant to a project conducted by Amanda Lehning and Ruth Dunke of the University of Michigan School of Social Work to empirically test the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Age-Friendly Community model. Policy makers are promoting an attitude towards planning that is friendly to persons of all ages, but especially senior citizens who may have special mobility needs. What aspects of a community matter to senior citizens? What are the reasons they choose to age in community?

For further details on other research, see Center for Social Work Research:

Office Location

5447 Woodward Avenue, Rm 071

Research Description

Sustainable community development, inequality, and migration.

Affiliated Departments