Demographic Forecasting by Race and Ethnicity
Racial segregation is a stubborn and enduring facet of America’s residential landscape, an intentional product of policies and investments that produces disparate negative impacts and outcomes for people of color. Fortunately, capital planning processes and scenario modeling initiatives are increasingly attuned to the potential disparate impacts of public policy. Various efforts are underway to measure the benefits and burdens of public actions on communities of concern. Such analysis must necessarily begin with a detailed understanding of where vulnerable populations currently live, and how that affects their access to opportunity and exposure to harm.
Since these planning processes involve major investments that will have effects for decades to come, they may also benefit from insight about where communities of concern will live in the future, and how that will affect their access to new resources or exposure to new risk. Due to the technical, political, and ethical complexities and uncertainties involved, practitioners may be inclined take a ‘conservative’ approach that assumes future conditions will reflect current segregation patterns. Unfortunately, if the assumptions underlying such an approach go unexamined, or if factors driving changing demographics go unconsidered, the process may miss opportunities to more effectively meet the needs of communities of concern now and in the future.
In this project we have conducted a literature review, stakeholder engagement, and modeling exercise designed to create a framework for developing racially-explicit small area forecasts. Our literature review and stakeholder engagement was conducted to better understand the current state of practice of regional planning entities across the country. From this, we were able to identify common technical and political barriers to creating small area forecasts by race and ethnicity. Our modeling exercise tests different scenarios that regional planning entities may use to determine Environmental Justice communities in the future. This exercise treats spatial segregation as the product of multiple uncertainties, with no ‘correct’ forecast, but a range of scenarios against which policies can be tested.