Understanding Social Equity

In recent years, an increasing number of government agencies and non-profits have begun requiring that their partners or grantees address social equity when applying for grants. The following web page presents mapping, data, and links to webpages that provide guidance on how to address social equity in community planning for Chester County.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation created this infographic, Visualizing Heath Equity: One Size Does Not Fit All, to illustrate that "when it comes to expanding opportunities for health, thinking the same approach will work universally is like expecting everyone to be able to ride the same bike."

Visualizing Health Equity: One Size Does Not Fit All Infographic by RWJF


United States President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Among the guests behind him is Martin Luther King Jr. Photo by Cecil Stoughton, White House Press Office (WHPO Public Domain).

Addressing social equity is not a new concept. In 1964, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act set forth that "no person in the United States, shall, on the grounds of race, color, or national origin be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

In 2011, CFR Title 13, Business and Credit Assistance, Chapter 1, Small Business Administration noted that "Socially disadvantaged individuals are those who have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias within American society because of their identities as members of groups and without regard to their individual qualities. The social disadvantage must stem from circumstances beyond their control."

The American Planning Association has also addressed social equity in planning, writing that equity is "just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all… Unlike equality, which connotes sameness, equity is responsive to difference; equitable policies actively mitigate the disproportionate harm faced by certain communities. Three cross-cutting issues related to social equity in planning include gentrification, environmental justice, and community engagement and empowerment."

Social Equity Analysis

There are several web pages which include mapping and downloadable data that address Social Equity. The most applicable of these web pages is the DVRPC's Equity Analysis for the Greater Philadelphia Region, which includes an interactive map of Indicators of Potential Disadvantage at the Census Tract level.

Map Image

Some other useful websites that offer interactive social equity mapping are:

Chester County Social Equity Interactive Mapping and Links

View mapping that addresses six key social equity topics (Demographics, Housing, Economy and Employment, Education, Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Environment). This mapping can assist local community planners who wish to determine where disadvantaged communities are located, and what sort of conditions exist in these communities. For example, these maps could be used to determine if a disadvantaged community is, or is not, served by a commuter rail station. Such mapping can be useful when applying for grants.

The web pages below present data and links to web pages that address six key social equity topics.

DemographicsDemographic Data

View information on population trends; racial and ethnic cohorts; age cohorts, children, and seniors; single parent households; and disabled persons.


View information on income burden for housing, low-income housing, and the age of housing.

EconomyEconomy and Employment

View information on median income, per capita income, poverty, low-income households.


View information on education levels and English as a second language.

TransportationTransportation and Infrastructure

View information on public transportation, households with no car, and households with only one car.


View information on flooding, heat islands, Superfund and brownfields sites, and access to parks.