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Angeles Ortega leads group through census data. Enlarge Angeles Ortega leads group through census data.
Amanda Pagliarini Posted: August 20th, 2011 Amanda Pagliarini

Analyzing census data sounds about as exciting as analyzing carpet fibers. But it turns out, the process can be rather illuminating when you have someone to help you draw connections and meaning from the results. In fact, there were several head-shaking moments of disbelief from the group who gathered for Crossroads Charlotte’s Know It 2 Work It program on Aug. 18. 

Called "From the Numbers: Story Behind the Data," the attendees were comprised of Realtors, those in affordable housing or diversity planning and small business owners--all curious about how census data could be applied to their work and their industries. Angeles Ortega, a partnership specialist with the U.S. Census Bureau, led the group through the 2010 Census results while helping to give clarity and context to the numbers. What resulted was a compelling group dialogue about the reality of Charlotte’s growth and diversity and what that might mean for our economy and education system.   

When race, economic indicators and education were represented on the Charlotte map, there were very clear divisions. Myers Park seemed to be the constant outlier for all data, whereas the rest of Mecklenburg County remained fairly consistent in results. More than 30 percent of households in Mecklenburg County earn under $30,000, except in Myers Park, where more than 20 percent of households earn $200,000 and above. Much of the county experienced a 10- to 20-point decline in household income since 2000 with many in North, East and West Charlotte experiencing more than 20-point declines. Meanwhile, in the Myers Park area, households saw a 10- to 20-point increase in income. 

In Myers Park and in areas of South Park, 80 to 100 percent of elementary school students attend private school, while more than 95 percent of the remaining community attends public school. The areas heavily attending private school are more than 90 percent white. When Ortega asked the group to guess how many private schools were in Mecklenburg County, one attendee shared what the group considered a high end estimate of 15. There was a sense of disbelief when the group learned there are 60 private schools in the county. 

What does this all say about Charlotte? The group concurred that with hard lines of demarcation comes preconceived notions about communities outside of your own. Many in the discussion believed that these communities do not interact, choose not to interact and don’t see the value in interactions. The data revealed to the group that our communities, and therefore our schools, continue to remain segregated.   

What do you think this data reveals about our community?

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