UNC Center for Civil Rights Report Highlights Plight of ‘Excluded’ Communities in North Carolina

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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 and equal access to education, according to a new report by the UNC Center for Civil Rights.

The just-released report, “The State of Exclusion: An Empirical Analysis of the Legacy of Segregated Communities in North Carolina,” was prompted by the Center’s work representing what the Center staff refers to as “excluded” communities in the state.

“We recognized that the same patterns of exclusion were repeating, in denial of water and sewer, exclusion from quality schools, and being burdened with landfills, but our evidence was based on our limited experience with individual communities,” says Peter Gilbert, the author of the study, which was funded by a grant from the Norflet Progress Fund and by Equal Justice Works. “In June 2012, we undertook to do a statewide empirical analysis to determine if these patterns we recognized held true across the state, and whether there were different experiences geographically or based on the race of the community.”

Gilbert and other staff of the UNC Center for Civil Rights studied data from the 2010 U.S. Census to identify potentially excluded communities, beginning with every census block that was at least 75 percent non-white, and then clustered those communities that were contiguous. 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. Nearly 3,200 clusters were studied.

Of the five areas examined, dramatic disparate impacts were found in three: environmental justice, education and housing. The chances that residents of these predominately non-white neighborhoods lived within one mile of an environmental hazard, such as a landfill or incinerator, or that their closest school was failing or high-poverty, were almost double that of the state averages, according to Gilbert. In the other two measures — infrastructure and political exclusion — there was insufficient data to reach strong conclusions.

In addition to the 44-page report detailing the project’s results, the project’s website features an interactive map that illustrates the impacts of segregation in communities across North Carolina.

“We hope the map and the report will enable communities to document the effects of racial exclusion in their community,” says Gilbert. “We also hope that policy makers, municipalities and advocates will be convinced by the report to take steps to address the documented impacts of exclusion, and the gaps we identified in the availability of critical data.”

The paper and interactive map are the first phase of what the Center has named the Inclusion Project, according to Gilbert. The second phase, launched this June, examines 20 North Carolina counties in greater detail, looking at such issues as local elections, school assignment policies and the location of water and sewer lines. In the third and final phase, the Center will research individual communities in the 20 counties, including site visits, interviews and documenting histories from the community perspective.

For more information:


  • Allison Reid, Assistant Dean for Communications, UNC School of Law, allison_reid@unc.edu, 919.423.2536
  • Peter Gilbert, Equal Justice Works Fellow, UNC Center for Civil Rights, pgilbert@email.unc.edu, 919.445.0175

-September 12, 2013

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