New regional dataset has equity focus

Date: Thursday, May 20, 2021

PlanIt podcast: Researchers Matt Schroeder and Krysten Ryba-Tures talk about the Equity Considerations dataset and its applications for local planning.The Met Council has released an updated and expanded Equity Considerations dataset that provides equity-relevant characteristics for each of the 704 census tracts in the Twin Cities region.

The dataset contains disaggregated data (broken down by detailed subcategories) on a full range of topics that would otherwise be difficult to access in one place. Broad topic areas include demographics, migration, historic discrimination, housing, environment and climate, amenities, and many more. The dataset includes 300 distinct data fields.

In the regional discussion on equity, the Met Council’s Community Development Research team continues to redirect the focus of the Council, and the region, away from concentrated poverty and toward more nuanced, people-centered metrics.

“The spatial shorthand offered by ‘Areas of Concentrated Poverty’ was appealing,” said Krysten Ryba-Tures, Met Council senior researcher. “However, focusing on concentrated poverty leaves too much out of the discussion, and this deficit-based narrative creates tangible harms to neighborhoods that residents love and call ‘home.’

“Going forward, our research will create a more nuanced portrait of neighborhoods and their residents, incorporating data about housing, employment, transportation, and many other topics,” she said.

Dataset refocuses on systems and root causes

To put the focus on economic segregation more generally, the dataset identifies “Areas of Concentrated Affluence” in addition to “Areas of Concentrated Poverty.” To avoid implying that there is something inherently problematic about black, Indigenous and people of color living in the same neighborhood, the dataset no longer explicitly identifies “Areas of Concentrated Poverty where more than half of the residents are people of color,” or ACP50s.

“The depictions we have used to date oversimplify the complex foundations of the issues these communities face, like discrimination and lack of investment,” said Matt Schroeder, Met Council principal researcher. “We want to avoid using poverty rates and crude measures of race and ethnicity as our only proxies for the different types of investment and policies communities might want.

“It’s well past time to put more sophisticated and meaningful measures in place, while also naming the limitations of all quantitative data that isn’t paired with meaningful community engagement,” Schroeder said.

Guide shows how to use the data

For more detail, see the new web page on place-based equity research. A user guide provides examples of how best to use the data as well as the importance of community engagement to gather perspectives from residents.

The dataset is one outcome of the "Rethinking Areas of Concentrated Poverty" project that the Met Council initiated to better inform equity-related decision making. Council researchers give kudos to members of the Equity Advisory Committee and Met Council board members for their contributions to this discussion, as well as Met Council staff and local government partners who provided input on the new data.

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