Dallas Reports Large Racial, Socioeconomic Equity Gaps

Two years of research and data analysis exposed reasons for the city's gaps in access to resources and opportunities.
Two years of research and data analysis exposed reasons for the city's gaps in access to resources and opportunities.
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In Dallas there are large gaps in access to resources and opportunities depending on residents' incomes, neighborhoods and racial and socioeconomic background, according to a new report released by the city in partnership with the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

The report is the result of two years of research and data analysis. It rated economic opportunity, education, neighborhoods and infrastructure, justice and government, and public health categories on a scale of 0 to 100. A score of 0 would indicate complete disparities in access across race, class and gender, while a score of 100 would signify no disparity.

Across those five categories, Dallas scored 39.77 this year, up from 38.75 last year.

“Dallas has a lot of work to do,” said Frances Deviney, chief operating officer for the center. She summarized the report for an assembly of city officials and nonprofit representatives Monday afternoon.

Speakers at the report’s presentation acknowledged that while the numbers might be shocking for some, for the people who live them every day, they would seem blatantly obvious.

The purpose of the report is to give the city as much information about where the disparities exist so that it can move forward with addressing the inequalities. The goal, of course, is to eliminate the disparities, Deviney said.

“Equity is how do we understand what people, humans, individuals, need to do to get to that endpoint,” she said.

Each of the 60 categories is broken into subcategories, and many of those are divided, as well. For 2018 and 2019, the city had the widest gaps in access in the education category and the justice and government category, although both improved slightly this year. The city's justice and government score rose from a rating of 32.17 to 32.25, and education went from 32.42 to 38.50.

Dallas has the least disparity in the category of neighborhoods and infrastructure, which includes things like road maintenance and access to transportation. The score dropped from 50.50 last year to 47.42 this year, Deviney said.

To illustrate how the categories in the report are broken down, she explained that the economic opportunity category includes subsections like business development, employment, income and poverty.

Deviney further broke out the city's poverty category by race, highlighting who had the largest and smallest disparities. For example, in 2018, 20% of Hispanic seniors lived in poverty, while just 6% of white seniors did. In 2019, that Hispanic percentage decreased to 16%, but the white percentage increased to 9%.

In the child poverty category, more black children than any other race live in poverty. In 2018, the report listed 40% of black Dallas children living in poverty. That number went down to 35% this year.

“Time and time and time again, people of color in Dallas … do not have the same access to opportunities,” Deviney said.

Looking this closely at trends and numbers makes it easier to see what’s going on and to look at the broader policies and systems that have created these gaps in the first place, she said.

One of the ways the city is working to address these issues is with the creation of an office of equity, which is designed to look at the entire city, organizations, policies and actions to figure out how to improve the situation.

“Equity is about systemic change,” said Victor Obaseki, Dallas’ first equity officer.

While it’s important to look at individual organizations working to make people’s lives better, it is equally important to look at the big picture, at the systems and policies in place and establish partnerships and services that allow more members of the community to thrive, he said.

The full report is available here

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