Hidden spatial inequality & GIS

Ben Marsh
Geography and Environmental Studies
Bucknell University
Allan Parnell
Ann Joyner

Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities
2009 -10
Uncovering cryptic governmental racial discrimination using GIS
This ongoing work by the Cedar Grove research group presents cases where governmental decisions concerning the local political geography have institutionalized racial inequality; the cases are documented with maps created from public GIS data. 

Local political geographies

Local political geographies are the vehicle for discriminatory municipal practices

Tuskegee, AL


Cryptic discrimination

What is 'cryptic discrimination' and how do municipalities come to develop it?


GIS and hidden discrimination

GIS helps solve spatial problems by comparing patterns on 'layers' of maps. Patterns of race or ethnicity can be compared to patterns of governmental action, annexation, infrastructure, etc.

Mebane, NC


Underbounding — abuse of annexation rules

Underbounding occurs when municipalities annex only up to the edge of minority neighborhoods, thus excluding them from political involvement and government services.

Moore County, NC


Selective annexation preserves majority power

Underbounding enables majority-White towns to avoid the "dilution" of White political power by the non-White residents of the real community, as should be defined by the demography in the region.

North Carolina small towns


'Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction'

Extraterritorial jurisdiction is a tool to project political power over nearby disenfranchised communities

Raeford, NC


Underbounding and infrastructure

Underbounding -- failing it incorporate certain parts of the urban fabric into the municipality -- excludes minority neighborhoods from municipal sewer systems and other services

Modesto, CA


Withholding infrastructure

Infrastructure can be withheld from minority parts of the communties, with no policy justicfication.

Zanesville, OH


Racist zoning patterns

Contemporary zoning patterns are often legacies of dramatically racist zoning patterns of the past.

Dallas, TX

Targeted code enforcement

Targeted code enforcement is an effective tool to be used by local governments to make life unpleasant for portions of the community whom they disfavor.

Lake Worth, FL


Inequitable urban redevelopment

Redevelopment can be a political tool for the removal of disfavored sub-populations, and for the support of favored constituencies

Portsmouth, VA


Summary —

"Good government" rules — that exist to optimize the efficiency of local governments — also make it easy to abuse of the less powerful


References —

Additional readings about this work from Cedar Grove

Key words: racial discrimination, housing law, civil rights law and GIS, demography, census, race, urban political geography, annexation, zoning, planning, Black, Latino