Key Findings

Below is a brief summary of key findings. More information is available at the Maps and Analysis page, and in a series of White Papers discussing specific issues in more detail.

The Regional Equity Atlas 2.0 exposes significant regional disparities affecting people of color, low income populations, and youth across a wide range of issue areas. The Equity Atlas also highlights positive examples where opportunity is more equitably distributed, offering models that could help to guide future planning. 

To create a prosperous region, we must ensure that everyone in our region benefits from the opportunities the region provides so that we are all able to thrive. Building an equitable region will benefit us all by creating a stronger, healthier, and more sustainable community.

Regional Demographics

Atlas 2.0 demonstrates that some pivotal trends in the region’s demographic patterns that began in the 1980s and 1990s continued during the 2000s:

  • Populations of color are an increasingly significant percentage of the region’s population, and they live in communities throughout the metro area. The areas with the highest percentages of populations of color tend to be located in a ring outside of the region’s urban core and extending into its periphery – areas that have historically been predominately white.
  • Poverty has continued to move beyond the central city.  Atlas 2.0 shows that the areas of the region with the highest poverty rates extend eastward beyond Portland’s central city, and that areas with high poverty rates are located in all four of the region’s counties.

New Findings about Regional Health Disparities

Some of the most provocative new data presented in Atlas 2.0 are in the area of health. Atlas 2.0 examines the incidence of chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease. Again and again, the same patterns emerge: neighborhoods with built environments that encourage healthy eating and active living tend to also be places where residents have lower rates of chronic disease. The maps also show strong relationships between the distribution of populations in poverty and populations of color and the locations of areas with higher rates of chronic disease.

Regional Disparities in Access to Opportunity

Atlas 2.0 demonstrates that disparities in access to essential resources and opportunities exist across a wide range of issue areas. A few examples:

  • Housing: Racial disparities in home ownership rates are prevalent throughout the region. The areas with the greatest gaps in home ownership between communities of color and whites tend to be areas with high rates of poverty and high percentages of populations of color.  In addition, housing continued to become less affordable in Portland’s central city over the last decade, leading to displacement of low income populations and communities of color from close-in Portland neighborhoods to outlying neighborhoods and suburbs. 
  • Transit Access to Jobs: Many low income neighborhoods have limited transit access to family wage jobs, particularly in parts of Washington, Clackamas, and Clark counties. The maps also suggest poor transit access to jobs for many people of color.
  • Air Quality: Exposure to air toxics from various sources is a significant problem in the region. Air quality tends to be worse in the more populated parts of the region, and many high poverty schools are located in areas with elevated air toxics levels.
  • Parks and Nature: Atlas 2.0 shows a clear mismatch between areas with the highest percentages of youth and the locations of park-rich neighborhoods. Many neighborhoods with high percentages of low income populations and people of color also have poor access to parks, nature, and other forms of greenspace.

Promising Examples of Equitable Access to Opportunity

As with the original Atlas, Atlas 2.0 includes some examples of areas where resources are more equitably distributed. For example, many parts of the region with the highest levels of access to transit and walkable neighborhoods are in areas with populations in poverty above the regional average. This is a testament to the region’s approach to land use planning and growth management. However, there are also some high poverty areas that do not have good access to transit and walkable neighborhoods, particularly in the suburban parts of the region; these neighborhoods warrant further attention.

Even in areas with considerable disparities, Atlas 2.0 highlights some noteworthy exceptions to the predominant patterns. For example, the Atlas 2.0 maps indicate that schools with lower poverty rates and lower percentages of students of color tend to perform better. But there are striking examples of schools with high percentages of students in poverty and/or students of color which have high achievement levels and high graduation rates. Understanding what’s working in examples like these can help us to identify potential regional strategies to address disparities.

A Call to Action:   Moving Toward Equity

The data and analysis are clear: the Equity Atlas 2.0 demonstrates many disparities across demographic groups, on a broad range of access measures, leading to stark differences in health outcomes. These inequities are not random; they are the results of past and current decisions, and they can be changed. Creating an equitable region requires the intentional examination of policies and practices (both past and present) that, even if they have the appearance of fairness, may, in effect, serve as barriers that perpetuate disparities. Working toward equity requires the prioritization of policies, infrastructure, and investments to ensure that all people and communities can thrive -- regardless of race, ethnicity, income, age, gender, language, sexual orientation, ability, health status and other markers of identity.

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