Back to Data Equity Hub

Dr. Lawrence Brown: Baltimore's Black Butterfly and White L

Visualizing the geography of hypersegregation in Baltimore using five key metrics: child poverty, internet access, commute time, investment in small businesses, and unemployment.



The data

The viz includes 2017-2018 data from the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance (BNIA) on child poverty, internet access, commute time, small business investment, and unemployment for the city of Baltimore. The Vital Signs data provided by BNIA was very broad; Tableau Prep was used to narrow down the important metrics highlighted in the viz.

The visualization

The visualization focuses on the hypersegregation in the city of Baltimore. Dr. Lawrence Brown, a professor at Morgan State University, coined the description of the Black Butterfly and the White L to show the geography of entrenched racism and the sharp divides between white and Black neighborhoods. The dashboard shows how these divides manifest geographically and in the data. 

The historical context

The divides captured by the Black Butterfly and White L are the result of 105 years of racist policies and practices. Housing and economic segregation produced the geographic divides visible in the maps, and historical disinvestment—from lack of access to banking and under-resourcing of schools—has perpetuated the divides. 

The current implications

The city of Baltimore—and other American cities that share similar patterns of hypersegregation—needs to invest time, money, and resources to achieve racial equity. By failing to push for equity, Black people in Baltimore will continue to experience pain and injustice. The city needs to prioritize investments in the neighborhoods where historic and current disinvestment has created the most harm.


Data Deep-Dive

Key takeaways to guide analysis

Spotlight on Baltimore

Baltimore is among the most segregated cities in the United States today—and a useful example of the data needed to develop solutions.

Multiple views into the same data

Using the map, scatterplot, and bar chart features show the data through different lenses to motivate action.

Choosing key indicators

The metrics in the dashboard give a sense of segregation in Baltimore—but they are just the beginning of a complete picture of the circumstances.