2021 Equity Challenge Day 6: Understanding Inequity Through Data

Data is the opposite of neutral. It’s dynamic and explosive. And it exposes facts that we might not want to look at.

Cathy O’Neil

Data scientist and author of “Weapons of Math Destruction”

Throughout the first five days of the challenge, we have examined broad concepts to build a foundation for understanding inequity. Over the next few days, we will begin to incorporate hard data to learn how race, ethnicity, income and other factors impact a person’s housing, health, education, financial stability and more. 

In today’s world, data is one of the most important resources for understanding and solving problems. Disaggregated data — data broken down into subcategories like race, age or gender — can play an important role in uncovering inequities by making comparisons between groups based on important outcomes. When making these comparisons, it is important to keep in mind the institutional and structural policies and practices that created these disparities in the first place.

In Southeastern Michigan, nearly 40 percent of households struggle to meet their basic needs like food, housing, child care, health care and transportation. The United Way ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report reveals the financial hardships of these families and shows that even when adults in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties are working, they are often not making enough to cover crucial expenses that create a stable life for their family. This financial hardship is particularly acute for Black households, where in Michigan, over 60 percent are unable to afford basic household essentials. This is a clear demonstration of the inequities that are deeply rooted in our national, state and local systems and institutions.



Read United Way’s ALICE reportand learn more about how it redefines the way we measure economic hardship and how the ongoing legacy of systemic and institutional racism uniquely stigmatizes Black households. (7 minutes)

Using data to show how racial/ethnic groups fare in comparison to each other is important to raise awareness about disparities and advocate for change. Read this article to learn why it is important to be mindful about how data is presented to not enforce stereotypes. (8 minutes)


Explore this comprehensive resource to track and measure data, and to make the case for racial equity and inclusive prosperity in America’s regions, states and nationwide. In 2017, Detroit ranked the lowest among 100 cities on the Racial Equity Index. (5 minutes)

Visit “One Crisis Away: What Does It Take to Survive in Southeastern Michigan?” on our website to look at the number of households in our region struggling to meet their basic needs. You can view data by county, city or ZIP code. (5 minutes)


Sign up on our website to advocate for building strong, resilient communities in Southeastern Michigan through equitable access to quality education, as well as financial and health resources, for all families.

Reflect And Share:

  1. What surprised you about the ALICE Report data?
  2. What data points within the ALICE Report show evidence of structural racism?
  3. What are ways you can share this data with others?


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hastag #EquityChallenge or #TakeTheEC21