Lori Thomas

Director, Institute for Social Capital
Director, Urban Institute
Sycamore 202-A
704-687-7037

Dr. Lori Thomas was named executive director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute in 2021. Thomas is continuing the Urban Institute’s research and engagement with the community on social, economic and environmental challenges.

Thomas, who is also an Associate Professor of Social Work at UNC Charlotte, also serves as executive director of the Institute for Social Capital, an integrated data system operated by the Urban Institute. She oversees and leads the work of community-engaged researchers and graduate students and facilitates use of linked administrative data by faculty researchers and community organizations.

A Tennessee native, Thomas holds a Ph.D. in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work has included multiyear projects to address systemic problems such as homelessness, using quantitative and qualitative research to find solutions.  

Stories by Lori Thomas

Five key findings about the impact of COVID-19 on local renters and prioritizing rental assistance

COVID-19 has had an immediate and potentially lasting impact on the housing stability of low-income renters in Charlotte and the nation.



Housing First Process Evaluation: Many housed, but lessons to learn

Housing First Charlotte-Mecklenburg (HFCM) was launched in 2015 to end chronic homelessness in Charlotte-Mecklenburg by scaling housing first, particularly the housing first permanent supportive...



A Groundswell for Charlotte: New Gambrell Faculty Fellows address Economic Mobility

Groundswells are a series of waves formed by storm systems off the coast, so-named because the energy from their waves reaches the floor of the ocean at a thousand foot depths.



Myths about closing the racial wealth gap

Most efforts to increase economic stability operate under the assumption that helping individuals increase one key asset will eliminate wealth disparities. Educational attainment, long seen as the...

Savings, investment and racial wealth gap over generations

Wealth serves as a buffer through economic downturns, job loss, and other unexpected emergencies such the COVID-19 pandemic. In Charlotte, households of color are more than twice as likely to lack...