The Urban Review

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 717–741 | Cite as

Places of Inequality, Places of Possibility: Mapping “Opportunity in Geography” Across Urban School-Communities

  • Terrance L. Green


For decades, research on geography of opportunity has indicated that where people live impacts their access to opportunities, especially education. Most research on geography of opportunity has focused on spatial inequality between low and high opportunity neighborhoods, which has unintentionally fostered narrow perspectives about low-opportunity neighborhoods that often obscure the assets within them. As such, the purpose of this study is to examine what I call opportunity in geography, which is a conceptual and research approach that reconsiders low-opportunity, urban communities of color as not only places of inequality, but also places of possibility. To illustrate the approach, this study uses Geographic Information Systems to map institutional assets across the two lowest opportunity neighborhoods in Detroit, Michigan, according to poverty and educational attainment rates. Asset-based community development is used to conceptually frame this study and to guide the analysis. Findings indicate that, collectively, the two lowest opportunity neighborhoods in Detroit have a total of 85 institutional assets, including: 48 places of worship, 19 schools at the K-12 level, 11 community centers, 4 hospitals, 2 libraries, and 1 university. The study concludes with a discussion about the tensions in this work as well as implications for policy and future research.


Geography of opportunity School-community relations Neighborhood effects Urban school reform 



The author would like to deeply thank Joanna D. Sánchez for making the maps for this study. In addition, the author would like to thank Anthony Brown, Huriya Jabbar, Pete Miller, and Shameka N. Powell for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Educational AdministrationUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA

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