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New report examines "islands of disadvantage" in Virginia

Nothern Virginia Health Foundation
Nothern Virginia Health Foundation

Wealthy areas in Virginia are often right across the street from pockets of poverty.

That's according to a new report from the Northern Virginia Health Foundation. It details what its authors call "islands of disadvantage;" areas that miss out on the region's economic progress. VCU researcher Steven Woolf was lead author of the report.

"When you zoom in and look at conditions at the census tract level, we see these areas of concentrated disadvantage amidst the wealth," Woolf says. "So, neighborhoods that have high poverty rates, limited educational attainment, poor access to healthcare [are] often just a short distance away from mansions and golf courses."

He says that's a trend that's just as true in Southwest Virginia or Southside; places where the hidden face of poverty is often side-by-side with incredible wealth. And, he says, the disparity is often disproportionate.

"Much of the inequity that we’re describing here has a racial component to it and reflects the history and legacy of systemic racism," says Woolf. "These neighborhoods didn’t come into existence by accident. There were a set of policies that created them."

He says policymakers in Richmond and local governments across Virginia should find the report useful because it points out specific Census tracts where targeted investments could help marginalized neighborhoods in terms of healthcare, education, job opportunities and affordable housing.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.