Arlington’s Race and Ethnicity Dashboard

Introducing Arlington’s Race and Ethnicity Dashboard

Arlington County launched a publicly-accessible Race and Ethnicity Dashboard in Spring 2021 to help track, analyze and display key demographic and socioeconomic variables by race and ethnicity. This visualization tool allows users to toggle between countywide and specific population data, and offers an easily accessible way to view wage, employment, education, and other household differences – just some of the variables that contribute to opportunity (or limitations) to achieving a greater quality of life.

The Dashboard offers a snapshot of racial equity (or inequity) in Arlington. It is part of a larger County effort to use data to better understand differences in Arlingtonians’ lived experiences, transparently document those differences, and make data-informed policy choices to promote equitable outcomes.

The focus on racial equity was reinvigorated during the development of Destination 2027, Arlington’s health equity plan. The research revealed that life expectancies in Arlington vary by as much as 10 years, depending upon who you are and where you live. This is a story often lost amid glowing countywide statistics – high-ranking schools, strong economic indicators, and ample opportunities to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Shortly after this process concluded, the Board passed the 2019 Equity Resolution, the County participated in a 10-month racial equity learning cohort with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and Government Alliance on Race and Equity, created a new position – Chief Race and Equity Officer – to realize Arlington’s commitment to equity, and took a series of steps forward through several initiatives:

To normalize evaluating policies and programs through a racial equity lens, the County called on each department during the FY 2021 budget process to consider how their specific line of business could adopt the equity framework called out in the Resolution.  After an interruption caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic and additional time needed to evolve and refine how to approach this new framework, departments identified opportunities to further explore racial equity in presentations during the FY 2022 County Board Work Sessions. Though this process will continue to evolve, this is a first step towards operationalizing the foundation provided by the racial equity framework across the organization.

Highlights from the Dashboard

This section presents a brief exploration into key topics discussed during the recent Dialogues on Race and Equity and how the Dashboard’s data supports that qualitative analysis. This Dashboard is by no means a complete picture, but presents general information to spur conversations about inequity, to inform public decision-making with a racial equity lens, and to serve as a starting point for deeper analysis on a variety of topics.

The Wage Gap

A disproportionate share of People of Color in lower-wage jobs persists in Arlington County, where the wage gap is stark compared to White residents:

  • Race by race, average wages lag behind White residents by more than half among Black, Hispanic, and Other Persons of Color.
  • While White households represent about three out of every four households in Arlington County, they only represent approximately half (56%) of households who earn less than $50,000.
  • Among White households, high-income earners ($200,000+) represent more households than any other income group. This is a reverse reality for People of Color who disproportionately earn less than $100,000 – a wage that cannot afford the median home in Arlington without substantial down payment assistance or public subsidy.
  • People of Color are two to almost three times as likely as White residents to live below the federal poverty level and have 1 to 3 percent higher unemployment rates (over 2.1%).

Because of Arlington’s employment and wage disparity, People of Color are at a disadvantage in managing the County’s high cost of living, realizing long-term financial gains, and achieving economic security and purchasing power needed to manage a job loss, a disability, or alternate housing to accommodate life changes (e.g., a growing family, an older adult who may need care, or an adult child moving back home).

The COVID-19 pandemic will likely exacerbate economic differences among households who were forced to suddenly create telework and virtual learning space in their home. Residents who struggled (or continue to struggle) with the transition are at a higher risk of job loss or pay reductions, and students face disruptions in education that could eventually lead to higher-wage employment opportunities. This is particularly true for the nearly 8,000 households without access to a home computer – Black, Hispanic, and Other Persons of Color are three times more likely to lack a home computer than White households.

Zoning and Land Use

In Arlington, most – 79% – of all land zoned for residential development allows only single-family, detached housing by-right (without special County approvals). Restrictive zoning that prioritizes low-density development at the exclusion of other types of housing not only increases housing prices, but contributes to segregation by limiting the housing options for households with lower incomes, overrepresented by People of Color. The map from the Missing Middle Housing Study shows that areas of Arlington zoned primarily for single-family, detached housing often overlap with Census Tracts where at least 70% of the population is White.

With much lower household incomes to afford the median single-family home, it is not surprising that People of Color are much more likely than White residents to rent. Because renters are more likely to live in multi-unit housing than single-family homes, People of Color are disproportionately concentrated in development corridors and other neighborhoods with a higher proportion of this housing type.


Income disparities may also be why People of Color have lower rates of residential mobility and involve less movement within the County. Black residents, for example, are less likely than White residents to move. When they do, they are more likely than White movers to move out of the County. Asian residents are more likely than other residents to move, but also much more likely than White residents to move out of the County.

Educational Attainment

Bachelors-Degree-web.pngEducational attainment rates by race/ethnicity strongly mimic the wage disparity in the County where Black, Hispanic, and Other Persons of Color are nearly half as likely to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree than White residents. Several factors could contribute to these rates, but the Dashboard presents a couple of hurdles:

  • Lower English proficiency, particularly among Hispanic, Asian, and Other Persons of Color.
  • Higher rates of households without access to a home computer.

In addition, conversations from Arlington’s Dialogues on Race and Equity raised concerns about inequities related to financial and human resources for school programs (e.g., wraparound services, extracurricular activities, Parent Teacher Associations) and a lack of transparency related to advanced programming.

Community Engagement

Participants from the Dialogues also raised concerns about lack of transparency associated with community engagement and public decision-making (known as the “Arlington Way”). Reduced public inclusion has led to a perceived lack of diversity across Arlington’s Commissions and leadership among County agencies. Although the County recently implemented Google Translate on all public websites and offers translation services at public events, participants feel that, in practice, the County offers limited translation for documents and other public sessions and could do more to facilitate greater engagement among residents with lower English proficiency. Limiting language services is a form of discrimination, and it disproportionately impacts Hispanic, Asian, and Other Persons of Color.

The PLACE Initiative completed in 2012 also underscored this point. The evaluation noted that several groups have been historically underrepresented in Arlington’s civic engagement efforts, including racial and ethnic minorities. In addition, renters and lower-income residents are also underrepresented. People of Color have disproportionately more residents in both groups than White residents.

How will we continue using data to explore racial disparities?


This Dashboard is the beginning of Arlington County’s efforts to create a more fulsome picture of inequitable outcomes. With the County’s Equity Framework, new policy, project, and program reviews will consider how the County explicitly or inadvertently exacerbates racial disparities among residents and employees. Tools like the Dashboard and other disaggregated data should serve as a resource to document those differences, which will help realize the vision of an equitable Arlington where all are valued, educated, healthy, and safe, regardless of race.

Several departments have initiatives underway that will use disaggregated data to inform policy, program evaluation, and implementation, including:

  • Department of Human Services (DHS): Racial Equity Advancement Partners using disaggregated program data to determine who benefits from DHS services by race and ethnicity, among other variables.
  • Arlington County Police Department: Analyzing racial profiling complaints, bias-based offenses, use of force, department arrests, and traffic citation information by race.
  • Community Planning, Housing, and Development: During the 2021 Neighborhood Conservation Program Review, staff used census data, NC project data, and spatial analysis to identify if and where disparities exist in NC Program outcomes, which will inform future program implementation.

These efforts and others that may evolve could inform a future best practice series that highlights ways in which the Race and Ethnicity Dashboard and similar data are being incorporated into program and project efforts.

The Data Used in the Dashboard

Unless otherwise noted, all data used in this report was sourced from the Race/Ethnicity Dashboard. Arlington County used 5-Year Estimates from the 2019 American Community Survey to develop the Dashboard. This dataset is calculated each year by the U.S. Census Bureau and allows us to measure changing social and economic characteristics from a sample population in between the larger decennial Census. Arlington County will update the Dashboard on an annual basis after the U.S. Census Bureau releases its new data each December.

The Census Bureau uses the following categories for race: White, Black or African American, Asian, Other, and Hispanic or Latino Origin. For data reliability purposes, “Other” includes American Indian or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, Other, and Two or More Races. Those of Hispanic or Latino Origin are of any race.

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