Professor James Jennings has conducted research and published in the area of urban politics, poverty, local economic development, and race relations. His research involves issues and challenges faced by neighborhoods in urban areas, and in particular, predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods. One issue is the relationship between broad economic development strategies for cities and the impact of such on neighborhood living conditions. A related issue is how race and class molds the nature of this relationship. Another issue covered in his research is the social and economic potential of urban places generally described as economically distressed. These places -and its residents- can have a wealth of resources that remain untapped, or even un-acknowledged by scholars, the media, or policymakers.
Specific research interests and research evaluations cover the following topics: role of faith-based organizations in urban neighborhoods; impact of welfare reform on community-based infrastructure; workforce development in inner city neighborhoods; analysis of the impact of micro-enterprises and small businesses in local areas; the state and future of community-based nonprofits; impact of immigration on state economies; the utilization of housing as a tool for local economic development; gentrification and displacement; and, the nature of political relationships between communities of color in urban areas.