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The use of GIS to find 'Hidden Spatial Inequality"
"Hidden Spatial Inequality" Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities © 2009

GIS is a mapping technique to compare 'layers' of data, to see relationships between map layers which aren't visible on the ground.
Building a 'spatial inequality' GIS, one layer at a time:
mebane_roads Mebane, NC. The roads 'layer' of the US Census 'TIGER" files is overlain onto the familiar Mapquest image of the town.
mebane boundaries The city boundary -- in red -- and the "Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction" boundary -- in purple -- define the political edges of Mebane. The ETJ is an area under zoning control from Mebane, but without voting rights. The data is from local regional government files.
mebane race Racial composition is imported from the US Census. The map pattern delimits percent of the population that is Black, from 0 - 20% (lightest shading) to 80 - 100% (darkest shading).
mebane sewers Sewer lines tell us where the municipality has invested in the health and well-being of its citizens. Map data from the regional government.
meb_bypass Blue lines, from the state Department of Highways, show where a new highway by-pass, to the golf course area to the north, had been proposed. This destructive landuse decreases the value and livability of the neighborhoods it passes through.

The combination of all these map layers reveals a range of previously hidden, potentially discriminatory landuse conflicts. The conflicts fall into two classes -- loss of landuse value for lack of good infrastructure investment near minority neighborhoods, and loss of political influence because voting-based representation is not given to minority residents. See “Racial apartheid in a small southern town,” in Review of Black Political Economy, J. Johnson, A. Parnell, A. Joyner, Ben Marsh, and C. Christman, 2003, for more details about Mebane.