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Cityscape: Volume 24 Number 1 | An Evaluation of the Impact and Potential of Opportunity Zones


An Evaluation of the Impact and Potential of Opportunity Zones

Volume 24 Number 1

Mark D. Shroder
Michelle P. Matuga

Census Tract Boundaries and Place-Based Development Programs

Joseph Fraker

Place-based economic development programs are often tied to census statistical units, such as census tracts. These units allow for the precise allocation of program benefits to areas with certain underlying socioeconomic conditions. During the 2020 decennial cycle, some local governments and metropolitan planning organizations sought to alter these units to change areas eligible for place-based Opportunity Zone incentives. Although criteria for modifying census tract boundaries are strict and have been consistent for decades, those efforts illuminate a potential conflict between the needs of data users and the desires of some who stand to benefit from place-based incentives. By interviewing people familiar with the Census Bureau’s process for revising statistical boundaries and through conversations with people in the economic development field, this report aims to better understand this potential issue.

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