Using Cartogram Technique to Explore Spatial Access to School After School Closure


Given that one’s place of residence plays a crucial role in accessing quality public services and facilities, unequal access to education has been a substantial problem besetting American education for decades. Various school policies since the economic recession of 2008-2009 have challenged equitable opportunities to schooling in metropolitan areas with diverse populations. As a case in point, community activists filed complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in 2014, alleging that the mass school closings in Chicago the previous year denied equal opportunities for African American students. To distinguish my research from previous research on school closures, which mainly place weight on financial efficiency and academic outcomes, I looked into changes in accessibility to school before and after school closings. To illustrate this research interest, I used a geospatial approach in measuring the extent to which school-age populations have access to local neighboring schools within a commutable time. I combined the list of closed schools in Chicago and data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 2011 five-year estimate. I generated cartographic maps to explore the relationship between accessibility changes and socio-geographies seeking spatial patterns in the distribution of diverse demographic and socioeconomic groups. My research offers practical implications for the potential and challenges of using different methodologies to deliver contextual information drawn from varying data sources to diverse readers.

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