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Data shows clear disparities between majority minority communities and the surroundings

PlaceMattersThis blog post is part of a series called Place Matters and was written by Peter Gilbert, Equal Justice Fellow at UNC Center for Civil Rights

The previous post in this series, Place Matters, laid out the importance of place-based strategies to address inequality across North Carolina. Geographic solutions must be guided by precise data to target specific solutions to particular communities. The State of Exclusion report is a first step in using available statewide data to identify specific communities and the issues they face.

Racial housing segregation creates inequality in living conditions related to housing, like clean drinking water, the type and condition of homes, and exposure to pollution. Residential segregation also undermines equal access to education, public resources, and employment, and frustrates democracy at every level.

This report examines these impacts tied to super-majority non-white neighborhoods called excluded communities. The report hypothesizes that super-majority non-white neighborhoods will face greater than average impacts of housing segregation suggestive of community exclusion based on race.

All census blocks that are 75% or more people of color across the state were identified and then clustered into contiguous blocks. Over 3,200 clusters with a population of more than 25 people resulted. These clusters contained an average of 400 people each – about the size of a neighborhood.

Data points were identified in the areas of environmental justice, housing, access to infrastructure, political exclusion, and education. The study used geographic interface systems (GIS), to map these data points to the excluded communities and compare their outcomes to county and state averages. The data are presented as interactive maps and customizable charts available at www.uncinclusionproject.org.

Results were in many cases startling. Across the state dramatic disparate impacts were found in three areas, environmental justice, education, and housing. The chances that cluster residents were exposed to an environmental hazard, or that their closest school was failing or high-poverty, were almost twice the state average. Statewide disproportionate impacts were also found for home ownership rates and racially identifiable schools.

Zooming in reveals even more stark discrepancies. Excluded communities in Randolph County, for example – are exposed to solid waste facilities at almost 10 times the rate of other county residents. An even closer look exposes communities of color that are underbounded for neighboring municipalities; in other words they are completely surrounded by towns but not allowed to vote in municipal elections or receive city services.

While the study uncovers many of the place-based racial disparities in the state, perhaps even more important is what it missing. The report calls attention to the need for more and better data to direct policies and programs these excluded and disenfranchised communities need. Notably reliable state-wide data does not exist on where water and sewer lines are. Data on income and employment are broad averages – not the geographically focused information needed to guide investment.

There is a real need to dig deeper into the shared causes of the overlapping challenges facing excluded communities and to identify where additional data is needed.  These findings only serve to confirm what excluded communities have known for years, where you live matters for the opportunity that you have.

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