Exploring Neighborhood Change:

Davidson and Mecklenburg County

Project by Sydney Finkelstein & Grace Coleman

What is displacement?

The National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership defines displacement as "forced or involuntary household movement from place of residence. Usually expanded beyond formal forced moves such as evictions to include unaffordable rents or poor living conditions." Oour project explores the trends that may signal displacement in the Town of Davidson and Mecklenburg County. To students, Davidson College may feel separate from the town in many ways; however, we are still Davidson and Mecklenburg County community members, and it is important for us to have an understanding of the potential changes and social injusticies going on around us. Our question for this project is are there signs that Davidson residents have experienced noticeable displacement in recent years?

How do we measure displacement?

How to best measure and identify displacement is widely contested among researchers. Changes in percent college-educated, racial demographics, household income, and median gross rent are only a few of the many potential hints of forced displacement occurring in a region. In the following webpages, we explore the trends that can indicate displacement.

To begin, we first wanted to explore patterns of demographic changes in Davidson. While this graphic is helpful in showing these changes and setting the stage for understanding who may have experienced displacement in Davidson, we were left wondering what led to their displacement. We then decided to look more closely into changes in income and property value. In this graph, we compare changes in Mecklenburg County as a whole with changes in the town of Davidson. We found in Davidson a dramatic increase in household income in combination with the slower increase in property value, which may suggest that property values will soon increase more dramatically in response to the wealthier population. Such an occurrance may result in displacement of Davidson's lower-income community-members. These results led us to explore the distribution of wealth across the Davidson and Mecklenburg county population in recent years. We found that as wealthy households migrate to Davidson, the overall wealth distribution in Mecklenburg seems relatively unchanged, suggesting that the county as a whole is more strongly affected by different changes occurring in other neighborhoods. Curious to explore changes occurring in surrounding areas and knowing that changes in education level is an indication of displacement, we were curious to compare changes in education levels between Mecklenburg County and larger regions. After we did not find very noticeable differences between Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and North Carolina, we wanted to again focus more closely on Mecklenburg County, and explored changes in income across different census tracts in Mecklenburg County. Household income is rising in Mecklenburg county, and this trend appears especially clear in those census tracts further away from the center of the city, around the edge of the map. This led us to wonder, are there populations who are being more heavily impacted by these shifts? We explored this question further in our final visualization about migration patterns in relation to changes in poverty.



Throughout the development of this project we ran into several challenges. One of the primary challenges we faced was related to how data was organized. For several visualizations, we resorted to hand manipulating data in excel files in order to achieve the data structure we needed to generate a visualization. The time devoted to this manipulation was highest for the Marimekko chart and the choropleth map. Another challenge we faced was accessing data from the Census Bureau. For several of our visualizations we made attempts to use census data but struggled to access the information we were looking for via the Census Bureau website which often looped back to expired web pages.


The primary limitation to our results was access to data. In particular, we would have liked to have studied trends over a greater number of years but could not find much data before 2000. There were several times when we thought of a visualization topic which would have added to the exploration of our topic but were unable to find appropriate data to generate that visualization.


From our work and exploration into the topic of displacement in Davidson we conclude that there are not strong trends of displacement in the area. That being said, we do identify some weak trends that should peak the interest of those who want to ensure that displacement is not an issue in Davidson in the future. For future work, we would encourage the continued search for more historical data and the use of data that will be collected over future years. We believe that the more years included in the data, the more significant the findings will be.