Xavier de Souza Briggs

Xavier de Souza Briggs

Vice President, Ford Foundation, Economic Opportunity and Assets

Associate Professor, Sociology and Urban Planning, Department of Urban Studies + Planning, MIT

Visiting Professor 2002-2004

Hosted by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP)

Xavier de Souza Briggs is Vice President of the Ford Foundation’s Economic Opportunity and Assets program and Associate Professor of sociology and urban planning in SA+P’s Department of Urban Studies + Planning at MIT.


Xavier de Souza Briggs is Vice President of the Ford Foundation’s Economic Opportunity and Assets program and Associate Professor of sociology and urban planning in SA+P’s Department of Urban Studies + Planning at MIT.  His research focuses on regional economic growth and inequality; environmental sustainability, risk and resilience; race/ethnicity and immigration; and democratic governance, problem solving and innovation.

He holds a BS in Engineering Resources and Development (1989) from Stanford University, an MPA (1993) from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a PhD in Sociology and Education (1996) from Columbia University.

Early in his career, Dr. Briggs served as a community planner in the South Bronx, worked as Research Associate at Columbia University’s Teachers College and at the Community Development Research Center in the School of Management and Urban Policy at the New School for Social Research. Other professional experiences include serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, as Faculty Affiliate at the Urban Institute in Washington, DC, and as Associate Director of General Government Programs in the Office and Management and Budget at The White House, where he oversaw a wide array of policy, budget and management issues for roughly half of the cabinet agencies of the federal government.

In his position as Vice President of the Ford Foundation’s Economic Opportunity and Assets program Dr. Briggs promotes economic fairness, advances sustainable development, and builds just and inclusive cities in the United States, Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. He also oversees the foundation’s regional programming in China, Indonesia, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Published books include The Geography of Opportunity (Brookings, 2005) and Democracy as Problem Solving: Civic Capacity in Communities across the Globe (MIT Press, 2008), which examines efforts in the US, Brazil, India, and South Africa to lead change at the local level. Moving to Opportunity: The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty (Oxford, 2010) won the best book of the year from the National Academy of Public Administration.

Dr. Briggs' past research and planning work has also earned him national awards, including the American Planning Association President's Award for community development work in the South Bronx; the 2000 Best Article of the Year from the Journal of the American Planning Association for "In the Wake of Desegregation"; and the 1997 Dissertation Prize of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

In addition, he has received numerous honors as an educator: the 2002 Manuel Carballo Award for Excellence in Teaching, Harvard Kennedy School; the 2007 Excellence in Advising Award, MIT DUSP; and the 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award, MIT DUSP. Dr. Briggs’ extensive teaching experience began with a brief lectureship in the School of Management and Urban Policy at the New School for Social Research.  From 1996 to 2004, he served first as Assistant and then Associate Professor (without tenure) of Public Policy in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

At the Institute, Dr. Briggs’ appointments have ranged from Founding Director of The Community Problem-Solving Project @ MIT and Associate Head of SA+P’s Department of Urban Studies + Planning (2013) to non-tenured (2005-2009) and tenured (2009-present) Associate Professor of Sociology and Planning. From 2002-2004, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) at MIT hosted him as a MLK Visiting Professor.



Briggs, X. de Souza, "Rethinking Immigrant Political Incorporation" (Conclusion), In Outsiders No More? Models of Immigrant Political Incorporation, edited by Jennifer Hochschild, Jacqueline Chattopadhyay, Claudine Gay, and Michael Jones-Correa. New York: Oxford University Press.


Briggs, X. de Souza, Elizabeth Cove, Cynthia Duarte and Margery Austin Turner, "How Does Leaving High Poverty Neighborhoods Affect the Employment Prospects of Low-Income Women and Youth? Evidence from the Moving to Opportunity Experiment” (book chapter). In Neighborhood and Life Chances: How Place Matters in Modern America, edited by Harriet B. Newburger, Eugenie Birch, and Susan Wachter. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

​Xavier de Souza Briggs, Mariana Arcaya, "Despite Obstacles, Considerable Potential Exists for More Robust Federal Policy on Community Development and Health", Health Affairs, 2011-10-01


Briggs, X., Susan J. Popkin, and John Goering. Moving to Opportunity: The Story of an American Experiment to Fight Ghetto Poverty. (Based on the Three-City Study of Moving to Opportunity.) 305 pp. New York: Oxford University Press.

Briggs, X., Jennifer Comey, and Gretchen Weismann. "Struggling to Stay out of High Poverty Neighborhoods: Housing Choice and Locations in the Moving to Opportunity Experiment’s First Decade." Housing Policy Debate 20(3):383-427.


Briggs, X. de Souza and Benjamin Keys. "Has Exposure to Poor Neighborhoods Changed in America? Race, Risk and Housing Locations in Two Decades." Urban Studies 46(2):429-458.


Briggs, X. de Souza, Kadija Ferryman, Susan J. Popkin, and María Rendón. "Why Did the Moving to Opportunity Experiment Not Get Young People into Better Schools?" Housing Policy Debate 19(1):53-91.

Briggs, X. de Souza. Democracy as Problem-Solving: Civic Capacity in Communities across the Globe. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (September). 400pp. Finalist, C. Wright Mills Award for best book of the year, Society for the Study of Social Problems.

Briggs, X. de Souza, "Urban Policy Next", National Housing Institute, 2008-09-16
Briggs, X. de Souza, Peter Dreier, "Memphis Murder Mystery? No, Just Mistaken Identity", Shelterforce, 2008-07-22


Briggs, X. de Souza. "Entrenched Poverty, Social Mixing and 'The Geography of Opportunity': Lessons for Policy and Unanswered Questions." Georgetown Journal of Poverty Law and Policy 13(3):403-414.

Briggs, X. de Souza. “'Some of My Best Friends Are …': Interracial Friendships, Class, and Segregation in America.” City & Community 6(4):263-290. American Sociological Association, 2007-12-01.


Briggs, X. de Souza. "After Katrina: Rebuilding Places and Lives," City & Community 5(2):119-128.

Briggs, X. de Souza and Margery Austin Turner. "Assisted Housing Mobility and the Success of Low-Income Families. Lessons for Policy, Practice, and Future Research." Northwestern Journal of Law and Social Policy 1(1):25-61.


Briggs, X. de Souza. “Social Capital and Segregation in the United States” (book chapter) and “Desegregating the City” (conclusion). In Desegregating the City: Ghettos, Enclaves and Inequality, edited by David Varady. Albany: SUNY Press.

Briggs, X de Souza, editor, The Geography of Opportunity: Race and Housing Choice in Metropolitan America (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press). 353pp. Following a 2001 conference Briggs organized, which was co-sponsored by the Harvard Civil Rights Project, The Brookings Institution, and the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. Author of three chapters: “Introduction” (16 pp.), “More Pluribus, Less Unum? The Changing Geography of Race and Opportunity in America” (24 pp.), and (Conclusion) “Politics and Policy: Changing the Geography of Opportunity” (31 pp.). Winner, Paul Davidoff Award.

Briggs, X. de Souza. “The Multicultural City in the Age of Networks” (book chapter). In Network Society: A New Context for Planning, edited by Louis Albrecht and Seymour Mandelbaum. Oxford: Routledge. Joint conference of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (North America) and Association of European Schools of Planning, July, 2003, Leuven, Belgium. Chapter delivered as the keynote address, representing the U.S. planning community.


Briggs, X. de Souza. "Social Capital: Easy Beauty or Meaningful Resource?" In Special Colloquium on Social Capital and Planning, edited by Judy Hutchinson and Avis C. Vidal. Journal of the American Planning Association 70(2):151-158.

Briggs, Xavier de Souza. "Civilization in Color: The Multi-Cultural City in Three Millennia." City & Community 3(4):311-342. Nominated for Best Article of the Year in Urban and Community Sociology, American Sociological Association.


Briggs, X. de Souza. "Re-shaping the Geography of Opportunity: Place Effects in Global Perspective." Housing Studies 18(6):915-936.

Briggs, X. de Souza. "Housing Opportunity, Desegregation Strategy, and Policy Research." Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 22(2):201-206.


Briggs, X. de Souza, Joe T. Darden, and Angela Aidala. "In the Wake of Desegregation: Early Impacts of Scattered-site Public Housing on Neighborhoods in Yonkers, New York." Journal of the American Planning Association 65(1):27-49.


Briggs, X. de Souza. "Brown Kids in White Suburbs: Housing Mobility and the Many Faces of Social Capital." Housing Policy Debate 9(1):177-221.

Briggs, X. de Souza. "Doing Democracy up Close: Culture, Power, and Communication in Community Building." Journal of Planning Education and Research 18:1-13.


Briggs, X. de Souza and E. Mueller, with Mercer Sullivan. From Neighborhood To Community: Evidence on the Social Effects of Community Development. New York: Community Development Research Center, New School for Social Research. (289pp)

Briggs, X. de Souza. "Moving Up versus Moving Out: Neighborhood Effects in Housing Mobility Programs." Housing Policy Debate 8(1):195-234.

Briggs, X. de Souza. "Social Capital and the Cities: Advice to Change Agents." National Civic Review 86(2):111-117.


Briggs, X. de Souza, Anita Miller and John Shapiro. "Planning for Community Building: CCRP in the South Bronx." American Institute of Certified Planners Casebook (Winter):1-7.



What is Creativity? (2014)

Diversifying Cities: Migration, Habitation, and Community Development (2013)

Gateway Planning Workshops and Lectures (2013)

America's Transportation Future Meets Politics and the Federal Budget (2012)


In MIT News

Barriers to opportunity (5/8/2014)

Briggs appointed VP of Ford Foundation (10/22/2013)

The new challenges for urban planners (5/8/2013)

MIT files new Kendall Square rezoning petition (12/13/2012)

Provost Chris Kaiser updates faculty on Kendall Square (11/20/2012)

Corporation names members of Presidential Search Committee (3/8/2012)

Moving in circles (5/10/2010)

Corporation announces faculty promotions and appointments (8/21/2009)

MIT-trained economists bring pragmatic approach to Obama administration (3/17/2009)

DUSP's Briggs joins Obama administration (1/20/2009)

MIT study: Workplace, community engagement key to interracial friendship (12/28/2007)

Housing panelists explore unit supply, quality and cost (11/1/2006)

MLK Visiting Professor, Scholar named; 4 continue as MLK profs (10/8/2003)

M.L. King Visiting Professors and Scholars named for '02-'03 (11/20/2002)

4 new MLK Visiting Professors named (11/19/2002)