I was privileged and honored to have been amongst the community that drafted the A Path Forward for Louisville document.
As the COVID-19 pandemic further revealed the deadly racial disparities here in Louisville, and across the nation, a group of local Black activists, leaders, and advocates began holding weekly meetings. The goal was to keep our community alive. Once again, it was clear that existing systems were not designed to help us. During this already trying time, our community was hit with the murder of Breonna Taylor. Centuries of pain and frustration spilled into the streets. As society began discussing a return to normalcy, we knew that “normal” would continue to kill us.
The A Path Forward document is not going to solve every problem facing Louisville. However, it is a road map for future opportunities and highlights some of the pressing concerns our community faces. The group of authors and co-signers from across Louisville chose projects and initiatives that would allow us to prove to funders and policy makers that we can take care of ourselves. In fact, we have been caring for ourselves for centuries. What we have too often lacked is money and power.
As a part of A Path Forward, we will identify, collect, and analyze data to evaluate the impact of the investments that are made, or not made. For centuries, data has been collected and analyzed about the Black community. This initiative will highlight the data that our community has already been collecting, about the issues that highly impact us, while we also expand beyond traditional measures of success to provide a more accurate picture of our community and how we define success. This data will help us challenge existing racist narratives by asking questions others have not asked us about, and connections between data points that were never made. The data will help us tell our story. We will track successes and failures as we dismantle oppressive systems and create new systems that are safe for our community.
In response to the A Path Forward document, GLP took the courageous step to align with this initiative, an evolution of GLP’s traditional work that started with the merger of city and county government in 2003. In 2020, at a moment when the community was again at a crossroads, responded. In that light, rather than our traditional annual report focused on a single issue, we produced 4 Deep Dives on the topics of the digital divide, housing, early childhood education, and Black wealth. Along with each report, we held community conversations, where neighbors within the Black community could speak for themselves. The feedback from these conversations has been positive and we have seen ripples within the community to keep these conversations going.
As we recognized the one-year anniversary of the release of the A Path Forward document, we here at GLP realize that the work is not over. However with the same spirit we are willing to be an accomplice on the side of justice. We hope that you look at this data and see, and even feel, the sense of urgency in addressing these issues. We hope that you are moved to catalyze civic change within your own sphere of influence and by using your own skills, talents, and resources. We hope you will support us.
-Monica E. Unseld, Ph.D, MPH
Over the last year, the Greater Louisville Project looked at the framework created by A Path Forward and where our community currently exists in four key areas. The individual reports offer a view into the challenges faced by many in our community, particularly black Louisvillians. The biggest challenge is that we cannot solve any of these complex issues in a vacuum. They are all interconnected and require a coordinated, holistic view that requires us to develop simultaneous solutions. This report also lifts up the voices of leaders in our community who understand the impact data can have in creating solutions to address some of our most pressing and persistent issues.
– Jeff Polson, Chair of the GLP Policy Board and Executive Director of the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence
For each indicator, Greater Louisville Project assigns cities into one of three groups (high-performing, middle-of-the-pack, and low-performing) based on how they compare to other cities. The assignment is based on how cities naturally cluster on that indicator. Sometimes, the differences between cities are very small, and the difference between a city ranked 5th and 6th could simply be a matter of the sampling error that arises from using survey data. Thus, rather than always make a division that declares the top 5 to be the top tier, we use a natural breaks algorithm to look for a cluster of cities that is outperforming the rest, a cluster that is about average, and a cluster that is lagging. This clustering gives us a better indication of where Louisville is thriving and where Louisville has room to learn from cities that are doing better.
Z-scores (or standardization) is a way to combine data with different units of measurement into a single index. The z-score is a measure of how far away a city (or census tract, etc.) is from the average city. In order to be comparable across different units of measurement, the z-score is the distance from the mean measured in standard deviations (e.g. if Louisville has a z-score of 1 it means Louisville is 1 standard deviation above the mean of its peer cities).
Data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's County Health Rankings use z-scores and all z-scores are relative to the mean of Louisville's peer cities. (On the County Health Rankings site z-scores are relative to all the counties in each state - thus z-scores reported by GLP will be different, because we are using a different reference group). The Greater Louisville Project also uses z-scores in our multidimensional poverty index, which compares each census tract to the mean of all census tracts in Louisville.