Stephen Menendian is the Assistant Director and Director of Research at the Othering & Belonging Institute, where he supervises many of the Institute’s research projects and ongoing initiatives. Most notably, Stephen spearheaded the “Roots of Structural Racism Project,” a multi-faceted study revealing the persistence of racial residential segregation and its harmful consequences, the "Racial Disparities Dashboard," an analysis of racial disparities in American society, and the “Structural Racism Remedies Project,” an exhaustive repository and analysis of policy recommendations aimed at addressing racial inequality. Stephen is also the lead author of the Inclusiveness Index, an annual ranking of global and US state inclusivity.

Stephen’s primary areas of expertise are structural racism, civil rights, fair housing, spatial inequality, affirmative action and educational equity, but his research focuses on the mechanisms of inter-group inequality and the optimal design of effective equity policy interventions permitted under prevailing interpretations of law, including the equal protection clause of the federal constitution and California’s anti-affirmative action ballot initiative, Proposition 209.

Stephen is the author of many scholarly publications, book chapters, journal and law review articles and is a contributor to the Berkeley Blog. He has been interviewed and his work has been covered by CNN, Time, Newsweek, the Atlantic, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Five Thirty Eight, The Root, Axios, Bloomberg News, the New York Post, and the East Bay Times, among other print media, and many local radio and television stations across the country (see media mentions below).

Stephen’s most important scholarly publications are: "The Problem of Othering: Toward Inclusiveness and Belonging," a heavily cited journal article defining "othering" and the mechanisms of othering, co-authored with john a. powell for the Othering & Belonging Journal; "What Constitutes a 'Racial Classification'?: Equal Protection Doctrine Scrutinized," a law review article investigating the parameters of federal jurisprudence restricting the use of race in public policymaking, for the Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review; and “The Road Not Taken: Housing and Criminal Justice 50 Years after the Kerner Commission Report,” a retrospective report analyzing the failure to heed the warnings and adopt the policy recommendations advanced by the Kerner Commission in the realms of housing and policing, co-authored with Richard Rothstein.

Other notable scholarship includes: “Race and Politics: The Problem of Entanglement in Gerrymandering Cases,” a law review article explaining why the exceptionally divergent constitutional standards governing judicial review of partisan gerrymandering versus racial gerrymandering claims are untenable in practice for the Southern California Law Review; “On Belonging: An Introduction to Othering & Belonging in Europe”, an essay presenting our most recent and fulsome definition of “belonging” and the elements of belonging as contrasted with “diversity, equity or inclusion,” co-authored with john a. powell; and his series “Racial Segregation in the San Francisco Bay Area,” a 5-part examination of the extent, effects and remedies to racial residential segregation in the Bay Area, as well as the heavily covered follow-up reports examining the extent and consequences of exclusionary, single-family-only zoning in the San Francisco Bay Area and the greater Los Angeles region. Stephen also authored a seminal paper entitled "Systems Thinking and Race," which explored how complex systems theory helps make sense of the production of racial inequality.

Stephen’s research tends to have a policy focus or policy implications. His most notable publications in that regard are: “Targeted Universalism: Policy and Practice,” a landmark primer contrasting targeted versus universalistic policy frameworks and defining the elements of the targeted universalism policy development process, co-authored with john a. powell and Wendy Ake; “We Too Belong: A Resource Guide of Inclusive Practices in Immigration & Incarceration Law and Policy,” a systematic review of best or promising practices and policies that promote inclusion for immigrants and currently and formerly incarcerated people, including the possibilities for extending voting rights to both groups; and “Responding to Rising Inequality: Policy Interventions to Ensure Opportunity for All,” a policy brief examining trends in economic inequality and advancing six promising policy interventions to disrupt that trend, co-authored with Justin Steil.

Relatedly, Stephen co-chaired “Race & Inequality in America: The Kerner Commission at 50 conference,” a conference held in the spring of 2018 that brought together the nation’s leading experts on race and housing, the criminal justice system, employment, transportation and health care in order to envision a contemporary racial justice agenda. The proceedings are archived on our Kerner@50 conference page.

Stephen is also an expert on housing law and policy, especially fair housing, disparate impact liability, the use of opportunity mapping methodologies to guide affordable housing siting and development, as reflected in the following additional publications: "Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: A Reckoning with Government-Sponsored Segregation in the 21st Century" for the National Civic Review, "Opportunity Communities: Overcoming the Debate over Mobility Versus place-based Strategies" in The Fight for Fair Housing, “Putting Integration on the Agenda,” co-authored with Richard Rothstein for the American Bar Association’s Journal of Affordable Housing, and “Opportunity, Race, and Low Income Housing Tax Credit Projects: An Analysis of LIHTC Developments in the San Francisco Bay Area.” Stephen is also a member of the Task Force that updates the opportunity mapping methodology guiding the siting of Low Income Housing Tax Credits in California.

Stephen developed and co-authored the Institute's Amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. the Inclusive Communities Project, cited by the Supreme Court in its landmark decision recognizing disparate impact claims under the federal Fair Housing Act. He also co-authored the Institute’s Amicus brief in Fisher v. Texas asking the Court to uphold the University of Texas’ race-conscious admissions policy in 2016.

Stephen presents regularly on the subjects of fair housing, affordable housing, racial segregation, zoning and land use policies, structural racism, poverty, the racial wealth gap and racial demographics, Proposition 209 and race-conscious policymaking, voting rights, ‘diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging’ (DEIB), and targeted universalism. In 2022, for example, Stephen was a featured speaker at the UC Center Sacramento, where he unpacked the “housing crises,” and on a panel for the San Francisco Ed Fund on how to promote educational equity.

Stephen also regularly advises and provides technical assistance to policymakers, foundations, non-profits and other institutions on creative ways to promote diversity, equity and inclusion within the bounds of law and on equity metrics, such as measures of segregation, opportunity and belonging. For example, Stephen testified before the California Reparations Task Force on housing segregation and the racial wealth gap, before a joint hearing of two California General Assembly committees on the subject of racial disparities in homeownership and policies to reduce them, and before the Richmond, CA city council on the legality of noncitizen voting in municipal elections. Stephen was also an expert reviewer for the “Stronger Democracy Award,” and has served as an expert witness in multiple disparate impact housing lawsuits. Stephen is a licensed attorney.

Media Mentions