What Maps Can Hide

The Atlantic
Lindsey Tepe

Recent research out of the Kirwan Institute at the Ohio State University has sparked several such local mapping initiatives. In Richmond, Virginia, for example, the Office of Community Wealth Building has been working to map which neighborhoods in the city best position their residents for future success. As the Washington Post’s Tina Griego described the initiative, “The basic idea is to look at how where one lives—one’s ecosystem—impacts access to transportation, education, health, credit, and wealth, all indicators of mainstream economic success and physical well-being.”

This visual analysis did not uncover previously unknown truths about Richmond. (Though it is jarring to see how the outlines of poverty in that city today echo the boundaries created by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation’s redlining in the 1950’s.) But by bringing together important local data at an unprecedented level of specificity, the project was able to spotlight where efforts must be directed, and begin to illuminate potential solutions.

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The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity was established in 2003 as a center for interdisciplinary research at The Ohio State University. The Kirwan Institute works to create a just and inclusive society where all people and communities have opportunity to succeed.