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Research Design

Laila Waddell

Urbanization in North Carolina

6. References

5. Conclusion

4. Discussion

3. Methodology

2. Literature Review

1. Introduction

Table of Contents


  • There has been a growing trend of urbanization in the Southeastern region of the United States due to industry expansion
  • North Carolina's population has grown increasingly urbanized. This demographic shift has implications on the limits of large cities and smaller incorporated areas; however, these changes in land classification are often left unvisualized about population change by county


  • Urban: 2,500 to 5,000 people; based on housing unit density instead of population density.
  • Southeast: The Southeast spans diverse landscapes from the Appalachian Mountains to expansive coastal plains. Most states in this region are along either the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in 29,000 miles of coastline

How is the growing presence of metropolitan urban planning in North Carolina affecting its communities environmentally?

  • Communities of Black and Brown people continue to be among the most densely populated nonwhite communities in the Southeast
  • These populations have faced discriminatory and racist laws and practices that have harmed their well-being and health
  • Historically, this process has been linked to a lack of access to green spaces, clean water, and health services, further exacerbating the hazards these communities confront

Research Question

Statement of The Problem

  • First-hand experience
  • Metropolitization of Charlotte and Raleigh
  • Prior Research: Environmental Racism in New Orleans; Hurricane Katrina with housing and transportation segregation and the placement of hazardous plants and sites

The relationship between metropolitan expansion and environmental and social inequities in North Carolina

Preliminary Research


  • Historically, environmental risks have disproportionately impacted minority and low-income areas. These communities frequently lack the political and economic resources needed to minimize the consequences of environmental dangers
  • Hazardous waste dumps and polluting companies in minority and low-income neighborhoods. Hazardous facility location has led in negative health effects such as increased incidence of asthma, cancer, and other disorders among susceptible communities.
  • As North Carolina continues to grow and develop, an increasing number of individuals are being displaced in their communities, posing increased dangers to health and general wellness in metropolitan areas


Literature Review

"Racial minorities and low-income households are disproportionately likely to live near a major road [e.g., 27% of racial minorities vs. 19% of the total population lived near high traffic volume roads in the United States in 2010." (Clark, L. P., Millet, D. B., & Marshall, J. D. 2017)

"Exclusionary housing policies concentrate housing inequities, disproportionately exposing Black communities to environmental pollutants, and isolating them from essential health resources such as healthy food options, hospitals, pharmacies, and green spaces." (Henderson, S., & Wells, R. (2021)

“Local incinerators, sewage treatment plants, military facilities, and other public facilities have impacted heavily on low-income communities and communities of color.” “Although this problem is discussed generally in the context of urbanization of less developed countries, urban migration has radical environmental effects…” (Michel Gelobter, Ph.D. 1994)

“The decline of nearby job opportunities, increased ease of travel to better-paying jobs, and a better-educated nonmetro labor force all contribute to increased long-distance commuting on the part of workers already living near enough to metro areas.” (Cromartie, J.B. 2006)

“Geographically, over 60 percent of newly designated metropolitan counties are located in the South…”“Metropolitan counties have the highest percentage of racial minority population…” (Brown, D. L. 1979)


  • Data on daily commuting from a questionnaire administered to one in six of the working population aggregated commuting files from the Census BureauUses census data and techniques to analyze migration patterns
  • Use of comparative profiles and quantitative data to show the demographics of metropolitan areas over a decade
  • Considered sending out surveys to communities in metropolitan areas and slowly developing communities that ask each household:
    • Race
    • Gender
    • Education
    • Average income


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  • Examination of census tracts and data to determine the effects of urbanization
  • Spatial analyses were conducted using ArcGIS tools and census tracts to determine the placement of green spaces, pharmacies, and commuting data
  • Survey participants will be asked questions about their daily interactions with green spaces in the community. Their responses will display the average community interaction with the environment as well as some of the effects of that interaction
  • A controlled sample of people ranging from various age groups, races, and education levels, will be asked to share their statements regarding the effects of metropolization in the community.




Participants' replies are confidential, promoting honest feedback. Data will be handled appropriately and that individual replies will be hidden.

Raise Awareness

Their answers will further illuminate a topic that has been neglected by larger research facilities, urban planners, policymakers, and many more

Data Analysis

Majority of data collection will be quantitative, therefore data analysis will be more objective

New research

Will require a whole new scope of the problem to be discovered. Requires data never collected before in limited time

Skewed data

Risk of significant non-participation from the targeted group. Non-responders differ from respondents, the survey findings may not correctly reflect the population

Implicit Bias

No method in place to account for implicit biases in survey responses. Individual biases, emotions, and personal opinions may impact fundamentally subjective testimonials


* Ratcliffe, M. (2022, December 21). Redefining urban areas following the 2020 census. Census.gov. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/blogs/random-samplings/2022/12/redefining-urban-areas-following-2020-census.html * Satcher, L. A. (2022). Multiply-deserted areas: Environmental racism and food, pharmacy, and greenspace access in the Urban South. Environmental Sociology, 8(3), 279–291. https://doi.org/10.1080/23251042.2022.2031513* Valencia, A., Serre, M., & Arunachalam, S. (2023). A hyperlocal hybrid data fusion near-road PM2.5 and NO2 Annual Risk and environmental justice assessment across the United States. PLOS ONE, 18(6). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0286406 * Wilson, S. M., Heaney, C. D., Cooper, J., & Wilson, O. (2008). Built environment issues in unserved and underserved African-American neighborhoods in North Carolina. Environmental Justice, 1(2), 63–72. https://doi.org/10.1089/env.2008.0509* Wilson, S. M., Richard, R., Joseph, L., & Williams, E. (2010). Climate change, environmental justice, and vulnerability: An exploratory spatial analysis. Environmental Justice, 3(1), 13–19. https://doi.org/10.1089/env.2009.0035* Wright, R., Ellis, M., & Tiao, N. (2022). Making metros white? The effects of U.S. metropolitan reclassification on Racial Compositional Change. The Professional Geographer, 74(4), 659–667. https://doi.org/10.1080/00330124.2021.2018660* Wright, W. J. (2018). As above, so below: Anti‐black violence as environmental racism. Antipode, 53(3), 791–809. https://doi.org/10.1111/anti.12425

* Cromartie, J.B. (2006). Metro Expansion and Nonmetro Change in the South. In: Kandel, W.A., Brown, D.L. (eds) Population Change and Rural Society. The Springer Series on Demographic Methods and Population Analysis, vol 16. Springer, Dordrecht . https://doi.org/10.1007/1-4020-3902-6_11* Frey, W. H., Caroline George, A. T., Schuetz, J., & Ray, R. (2023, August 1). Mapping America’s diversity with the 2020 census. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/mapping-americas-diversity-with-the-2020-census/* Henderson, S., & Wells, R. (2021). Environmental racism and the contamination of black lives: A literature review. Journal of African American Studies, 25(1), 134–151. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12111-020-09511-5* Johnson, K. M., & Lichter, D. T. (2020). Metropolitan reclassification and the urbanization of Rural America. Demography, 57(5), 1929–1950. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-020-00912-5* Lloyd, R. (2012). Urbanization and the Southern United States. Annual Review of Sociology, 38(1), 483–506. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-071811-145540* Michel Gelobter, Ph.D. (1994), The Meaning of Urban Environmental Justice, 21 Fordham Urb. L.J. 841. https://ir.lawnet.fordham.edu/ulj/vol21/iss3/19/* Pulido, L. (2016). Geographies of race and ethnicity II. Progress in Human Geography, 41(4), 524–533. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132516646495

* Brown, D. L. (1979). Metropolitan Reclassification: Some Effects on the Characteristics of the Population in Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Counties. Rural Sociology, 44(4), 791. http://ncat.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/metropolitan-reclassification-some-effects-on/docview/1290943917/se-2* Bullard, R. (2019). ADDRESSING ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM. Journal of International Affairs, 73(1), 237–242. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26872794* Bullard, R. D. (2015). Phylon: Vol. 49, No. 3, 4, 2001 Environmental Justice in the 21st Century: Race Still Matters. Phylon (1960-), 52(1), 72–94. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43681929 * Clark, L. P., Millet, D. B., & Marshall, J. D. (2017). Changes in transportation-related air pollution exposures by race-ethnicity and socioeconomic status: Outdoor nitrogen dioxide in the United States in 2000 and 2010. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(9). https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp959 * Cline, M. (2023, January 9). Making sense of the new “urban area” definitions. Making Sense of the New “Urban Area” Definitions |. https://www.osbm.nc.gov/blog/2023/01/09/making-sense-new-urban-area-definitions#:~:text=So%2C%20How%20Many%20People%20Live,to%20over%201%20million%20people* Cohen, M., & Habron, G. (2018). How does the new urban agenda align with comprehensive planning in U.S. cities? A case study of Asheville, North Carolina. Sustainability, 10(12), 4590. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10124590