Digital Humanities / Mapping

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Renewing Inequality

Using a blend of federal and local data, I am a lead project investigator of the Digital Scholarship Lab's Renewing Inequality, a sequel of sorts to Mapping Inequality, which mapped Depression era redlining. Renewal Inequality picks up the story of displacement and disinvestment in the late 1940s and 1950s, when the federal government began supporting significant urban redevelopment, housing, and ultimately, slum clearance programs. Between 1949 and 1974, the federal government fund roughly 4,000 Urban Renewal projects. By the late 1960s, according to one estimate, Urban Renewal was displacing some 66,000 families annually, a burden disproportionately born by minority residents. And, as our data makes clear, by the time it came to an end, Urban Renewal had become a disproportionately small city program: a majority of projects were in cities of 50,000 or fewer, and of that figure a majority were in cities of 25,000 or fewer. In addition to including a series of local case studies, our national map will offer data over time by city for all programs, including federal expenditures, non-white v. white families displaced (1955-1966), as well changes in urban land use by zoning category (e.g., residential, commercial, or industrial).

 
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Mapping Capital

Using Federal Reserve reports since 1919, we are mapping aggregate debits (cash in and out) of all banks monitored by the Fed in cities deemed significant enough to track. Collected as a rough way to track economic activity, the maps will quite literally follow the money as capital flows throughout the 20th c. United States. In the screen shot above, most cities are still enjoying the roaring twenties: green indicates relative gain against the previous year's performance; red indicates decline. The size of the circle indicates total amount of capital, while the relative opacity suggests degree of change (more opaque the greater the change). Click here to scroll through the opening years of the project, beginning with the post-WWI recession (when a federal investment in a new deep water port near Houston triggered the only uptick in economic activity), through the 1920s, and up to the onset of the Great Depression. 

 
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Urban Redevelopment since the 1970s

Using the Department of Housing and Urban Development's rich set of GIS data, I have begun building a national map scalable to the local level that traces poverty rates by census tract over time and includes federal Community Development Block Grant expenditures by category (e.g., public housing or economic development). Block Grant funds were initially created in 1974-75 by bundling together and deregulating a variety of mid-century urban programs, including Urban Renewal and programs from the War on Poverty such as Community Action. These maps will enable us to illuminate patterns in the local use of federal antipoverty and development dollars since HUD started comprehensively keeping the data in 1981.