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Stephen Menendian is the Assistant Director and Director of Research at the Othering & Belonging Institute, where he supervises many of the Institute’s ongoing research projects and leads major initiatives. Most notably, Stephen spearheaded the “Roots of Structural Racism Project,” a multi-faceted, interactive study revealing the persistence of racial residential segregation and its harmful consequences, and directs the California Zoning Atlas, a comprehensive database and analysis of zoning regulations in California.

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 production of inequality between social groups, how institutions and communities can foster a greater sense of belonging and connection (moving beyond “diversity, equity, and inclusion”), and the optimal design of equitable race-conscious policies as permitted under prevailing interpretations of law, including California’s anti-affirmative action ballot initiative, Proposition 209.

Stephen is the author of many scholarly publications, chapters, and journal articles, including the (forthcoming) landmark book Belonging Without Othering: How We Save Ourselves and the World (with john powell) from Stanford University Press. 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).

Among other Institute projects, Stephen also conceived and leads the “Structural Racism Remedies Project,” an exhaustive repository and analysis of policy recommendations aimed at addressing racial inequality, the Racial Disparities Dashboard, an interactive tool for assessing racial inequality and progress across a broad range of indicators, and the Zoning Reform Tracker, a repository for tracking municipal zoning reform initiatives across the United States. Stephen also supervises the Inclusiveness Index, an annual ranking of global and US state inclusivity, and the Campus Bridging Project, an initiative designed to create connections between social groups at Berkeley and to inculcate a deeper sense of belonging on campus.

Stephen also conceived and authored the Structural Racism Explained video and teaching materials, as well as the Institute’s landmark interactive segregation mapping tool, the most sophisticated such tool ever created (due to the number of measures included and the variety of scales rendered), along with a video technical user guide.

Stephen’s most recent scholarly publications in refereed journals include “Race and Politics: The Problem of Entanglement in Gerrymandering Cases,” 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 (and which was cited by a coalition of civil rights groups in a recent Supreme Court case), “The Shadow Constitution: Rescuing Our Inheritance from Neglect and Disuse,” a survey of a dozen provisions within the United States Constitution that have fallen into disuse or been neglected or badly misinterpreted by courts with harmful consequences for American democracy and equality for the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, and “The Past, Present, and Future of Zoning Reform in the United States,” an examination of zoning reform efforts at the local, state and federal levels and a comparison to fair housing reform efforts from the 1960s, also forthcoming (Winter, 2024) for the Rutgers Journal of Law & Public Policy.

In addition to his books and recent articles, Stephen’s most important scholarly publications are: "The Problem of Othering: Toward Inclusiveness and Belonging," a heavily cited journal article co-authored with john powell for the Othering & Belonging journal; "What Constitutes a 'Racial Classification'?: Equal Protection Doctrine Scrutinized," investigating the parameters and inconsistencies in federal jurisprudence restricting the use of race in public policymaking for the Temple Political & Civil Rights Law Review; and “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, among other regions.

Stephen’s research tends to have a policy focus or policy implications. His most notable publications in that regard are: “Advancing Racial Equity: Legal Guidance for Advocates,” a careful analysis of the terminology and possibilities for race-conscious policy design in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision curtailing affirmative action; “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 powell and Wendy Ake; 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 these trends, 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 heath care in order to envision a contemporary racial justice agenda. The proceedings are archived on our Kerner@50 conference page, including “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.

Stephen is also an expert on housing law and policy, especially fair housing, land use, disparate impact liability, and 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, and “Putting Integration on the Agenda,” co-authored with Richard Rothstein for the American Bar Association’s Journal of Affordable Housing. 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, which was 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 regularly gives presentations on the subjects of fair housing, affordable housing, racial segregation and inequality, zoning and land use policies, structural racism, Proposition 209 and race-conscious policymaking, targeted universalism, bridging practices and operationalizing belonging. 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. Stephen was also an expert reviewer for the “Stronger Democracy Award,” and has served as an expert witness multiple disparate impact housing lawsuits. Stephen is a licensed attorney.

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Media Mentions