State of Exclusion: Profile on Orange County

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Following the 2013 State of Exclusion report, the UNC Center for Civil Rights released a series of county profiles, containing a more in-depth examination of exclusion and the legacy of racial segregation in the individual counties. The fifth in the series, Orange County, is released today. This report, the other county reports, and the statewide report, are all available at

Nestled in the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area, Orange County boasts three prosperous towns, a low unemployment rate and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Behind this prosperity lies a sharp divide between rich and poor, often along racial lines. As the county has grown, the cost of living has increased and the African American population has declined. The result is outward migration from traditional African American neighborhoods and the county as a whole.

The county’s remaining non-white population disproportionately live in areas with close proximity to solid waste or other potentially polluting facilities. Compared to other wealthy counties or to the state, Orange County has a smaller exposure rate to solid waste facilities for its overall population (3.20% compared to 5.34% statewide), but a higher rate for super majority non-white census blocks (16.72% compared to 9.37%). Additionally, racially identifiable excluded communities still have difficulty obtaining the infrastructure to supply water and sewer access. The County has been working with the cities to address this issue, but it is a slow process.

Orange County contains two school districts, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District and the Orange County School District. While both districts receive significant local financial support, district and school-level disparities underscore the socio-economic divide between white and non-white students across the county. Chapel Hill-Carrboro, where 70% of African American students and just 5% of white students qualify for free or reduced lunch, recently gained national attention for having one of the largest racial achievement gaps in the nation. Across both districts, student performance for each school correlates to the percentage of students in poverty.

Orange EOG chart
This graph, taken from the Orange County State of Exclusion report, demonstrates the relationship between socio-economic status of students (measured by FRL eligibility) and EOG passage rates. The black trend line shows FRL eligibility and EOG passage rates are strongly correlated in both OCS and CHCCS, as schools with the highest concentrations of low-wealth students generally have the lowest passage rates.

The information in this profile of Orange County can only come alive through dialogue with the affected communities. The Center for Civil Rights hopes to hear from residents, advocates, and community leaders as we continue to uncover the history and scope of exclusion. The goal is to provide communities, advocates, and policy makers with an understanding of the shared causes of the overlapping challenges facing excluded communities, identify data on the seriousness of the issues, suggest where additional information is needed, and help begin the dialogue on addressing these institutionalized impacts. The first phase of this project was a statewide analysis culminating in the publication of the State of Exclusion report. The results were startling, especially with respect to educational disparities and environmental justice issues, but ultimately the report raised more questions than provided answers. The Inclusion Project of the UNC Center for Civil Rights now continues this work with these profiles of individual counties. Look for information on other counties later this year.

Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Thu. March 9, 2017 4:14 PM
Categories: Community Inclusion, Education, Environmental Justice, Orange County, Race Discrimination
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