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Albemarle County’s inequities highlighted ahead of opportunities for change

Outside of the Albemarle County office building.
Outside of the Albemarle County office building.(wvir)
Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 10:42 PM EDT
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ALBEMARLE Co., Va. (WVIR) - Inequities in Albemarle County are being highlighted on a public, virtual stage. The county’s first equity profile was shared in front of Community Advisory Committees on Monday evening.

The conversation started by defining equity, and then moved forward to an analysis of where Albemarle County is falling short of that goal.

The report, which you can read in its entirety here, was broken down in front of people who can use their voices to change the negative outcomes. In addition to members of several Community Advisory Committees, the audience included some supervisors and county residents.

“Once you know it, we should not forget it. We should not ignore it,” said Cynthia Neff, a county resident.

The analysis dives into quality of life in the county using a metric called the American Human Development Index, which covers three categories.

“One is about a long and healthy life, one is about access to knowledge and education, and one is about a decent standard of living,” explained Michele Claibourn with UVA’s Equity Center.

Across the board, Albemarle is doing well -- above the United States and Virginia averages. However, UVA Equity Center’s Michael Salgueiro said: “we immediately begin to see disparities when we break down the index along geographic lines.”

Life expectancy is lower in the urban ring of the county, as well as some rural areas. Those disparities are glaring across racial lines, too.

“Black residents can expect to live, based on the data, on average, 5.6 fewer years than their white neighbors,” Salgueiro said.

The same holds true with education, where 58% of white county residents have at least a bachelor’s degree. For Hispanic residents, it’s 32%. And for Black residents, it’s just 19%.

“Current systems of public and higher education are disproportionately failing students of color,” Salgueiro said.

Now that the profile is being discussed, Claibourn is hopeful it can shape the future and help people realize the power of policy.

“What we hope the county will think about is the way in which the policies that the county has made have created some of those differences.”

Claibourn said some of those differences have come from state or federal policies. Community Advisory Committee members were asked to think about how this information can be used to inform long-range planning and land use policy in the county, as well as how the current Comprehensive Plan addresses these inequities.

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