What are the Community Development Implications of Racial Segregation in North Carolina?

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A series of reports on the impacts of racial exclusion from the UNC Center for Civil Rights demonstrates that North Carolina’s racially segregated African American and Latino neighborhoods are more likely to suffer from inequality in living conditions related to housing, environmental justice, political representation, and equal access to education.

The first phase of the project was the 2013 State of Exclusion report, which identified potentially excluded communities, starting with every census block that was at least 75 percent non-white, and then clustered those communities that were contiguous. This yielded nearly 3,200 clusters with a population of more than 25 people. These clusters contained an average of 400 people each – about the size of a neighborhood. The study then examined the clusters and measured and mapped the potential for inequality in five areas: environmental justice, voting rights, housing, municipal services and education.

Of particular interest to community development professionals are the disparate impacts found in 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. These are areas on which community development professionals can focus going forward.

In addition to the statewide analysis, the project has also conducted focused studies of individual counties. So far Jones, Lenoir, Davidson, and Moore counties have been the subject of individual reports.

The individual county studies are still data driven, but include history and other information not available statewide. The profile on Lenoir County, for example, describes the impact of school assignment zones and of higher electric rates paid by Kinston residents. The statewide report, data, maps, and county level reports all are available at www.uncinclusionproject.org.

The project used existing data to identify a number of place-based racial disparities in the state, but it also noted where more data is needed. For example, reliable state-wide data does not exist on the location of water and sewer lines. In addition, data on income and employment are broad averages—not the geographically focused information needed to guide investments in workforce development, community facilities, and public infrastructure.

Peter Gilbert authored this post while serving as an Equal Justice Works Fellow with the UNC Center for Civil Rights. He is currently a Staff Attorney with Legal Aid.

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