Profile: Jennifer Wolch

Dr. Jennifer Wolch, Professor of Geography and Urban Planning, and Director of the Center for Sustainable Cities, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA. Dr. Wolch’s research and teaching interests focus on problems of service-dependent and homeless people in American cities as well as applied urban policy. Jennifer has been a member of the USC faculty since 1979.

Jennifer Wolch received her doctrate in Urban Planning from Princeton University in 1978. She joined the University of Southern California in 1979, and is a professor of Geography and Urban Planning. She teaches such disparate courses as urban poverty and animal geographies. Dr. Wolch has a distinguished research portfolio — in the 1980s, she focused on homelessness, which lead to the establishment of the National Science Foundation-funded Los Angeles Homelessness Project, of which she became Director in 1987. Resulting publications include Landscapes of Despair (with Michael Dear), and The Shadow State: Government and Voluntary Sector in Transition.

During the 1990s, she conducted research on welfare reform and its implications for American cities, serving as principal author of Los Angeles in an Era of Welfare Reform (with H. Sommer). Recently she has collaborated with Pascale Joassart-Marcelli and Juliet Musso on analyses of the impacts of concentrated poverty on intrametropolitan fiscal disparities. In partnership with USC’s Southern California Studies Center and the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy, Jennifer directed a multi-year project focused on the role of federal, state, and local policies in influencing rates of exurbanization in southern California. This work was the basis for the 2004 book, Up Against the Sprawl: Public Policy and the Making of Southern California (co-edited with M. Pastor Jr. and P. Dreier).

Always intrigued by animals and their relationships with people, Jennifer has also reinvigorated the field of animal geography, conducting research on cultural diversity and attitudes toward animals, animal practices and racialization of immigrant groups, and the impacts of urbanization and urban design on animal life. She published Animal Geographies: Place, Politics and Identify in the Nature-Culture Borderlands (Verso, 1998, with J. Emel).

For both practical planning efforts and scholarly articles, Wolch has won a number of awards from the American Planning Association. In 1995, she was a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. In 1997 she won the USC’s Raubenheimer Award for Faculty Excellence in Research, Teaching and Service, and was also awarded a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. In 2003, she was a Fellow at the Rockerfeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. And in 2005, she received Honors for her research from the Association of American Geographers. Jennifer directs the Green Visions Plan for 21st Century Southern California, a large-scale socio-ecological planning study, is engaged in collaborative research on the associations between physical activity and urban design, especially access to parks and recreation opportunities, and is investigating the implications of urban meat consumption for climate change.

Jennifer may be contacted at

Updated: February, 2009 :