Social Equity Atlas

The purpose of this project is to collect, assemble and analyze the socioeconomic and demographic data provided by the US Census Bureau and other federal, state or local agencies. The main source for these data is the United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS – most current 5-year average estimates) at the Block Group-level geography. Analysis of these data will provide an illustrative backdrop that can be compared to other Wake County data.

Many of the Block Group variables can be combined to develop a “Social Equity Atlas” as a measure of Community Health and Well-Being among County residents. This analysis will be primarily used to support Wake County Human Services initiatives but will also aid in supporting multiple Wake County agencies, including the Wake County Board of Commissioners Board Goals, Social and Economic Vitality Pilot Zones and Comprehensive Food Security.

Community Vulnerability and Economic Health are two key indices that the Social Equity Atlas uses to identify and measure our communities’ socioeconomic conditions. The main source of these data is the most recent 5-year estimates of U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey at the Block Group level.

In order to support the Wake County Food Security Plan “Moving Beyond Hunger,” planning staff developed the Food Security Locator app and other resources.

More Information About Social Equity Tools

Community Vulnerability Index

Wake County uses the Community Vulnerability Index to help determine where its support resources and initiatives are most needed. In order to gauge this, Wake County staff use a number of different factors or variables in their calculations:

  • Unemployment - The population age 16 and older who are unemployed in the civilian labor force.
  • Age Dependency - The population younger than the age of 18 and older than the age of 64 combined.
  • Low Educational Attainment - The population of ages 25 and older who have less than a high school diploma.
  • Housing Vacancy - The total number of vacant or unoccupied housing units in a block group.
  • Below Poverty Level - The population living below the federal poverty threshold in Wake County.


Staff calculated the percentages for each variable by block group, sorted them from highest to lowest, and gave them a score (1–597) based on the total number of block groups in Wake County. Staff totaled each community’s scores then sorted and ranked the communities.


Economic Health Index

The Wake County Economic Health Index compares the conditions within each community to better understand what type of financial constraints residents within that community may be facing. For example, comparing median household income with the percentage of persons spending greater than 30% of their income on rent, otherwise known as “cost burden,” can identify low to moderate income populations. This can help determine the economic impact of living in certain block groups throughout the county.

The variables used for this index are used by such federal initiatives as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Access program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to determine low-income neighborhoods and household types, respectively.


  • Median Household Income - The median household income in the past 12 months.
  • Food Stamps - Measured as a percentage of households in each block group.
  • Rent as Greater Than 30% of Income - Gross rent as a percentage of household income.
  • Home Mortgage as Greater Than 30% of Income -
    Mortgage status by owner cost as a percentage of household income.
  • Persons Living 100%–200% of Federal Poverty Level - Ratio of income to poverty level for whom poverty status is determined between 100 and 200 percent.

Staff calculated the percentages for each factor by block group, then ranked them from lowest to highest (1 – 597) based on the total number of block groups in Wake County (Median Household Income was sorted highest to lowest, thereby giving a lower score to the higher incomes). Each factor’s score was then summed together to produce a total score and ranked again 1 – 455.

Social Equity Reference App

Using the Community Vulnerability and Economic Health Indexes with additional supporting data, planning staff created a “Targeted Application” focusing on some of the socioeconomic characteristics within the Human Service Zones and around Wake County. The combined Social Equity Index ranking demonstrates the combined vulnerable characteristics of these communities. This application can be used through accessing a website or a mobile device and is created to allow additional interaction by the user.

Additionally the N.C. Department of Commerce has selected 13 “Opportunity Zones” based on Census Tracts in Wake County. In response the "Opportunity Zones" have been added to the map to identify the areas chosen as opportunities for investment.

Social Equity Reference app instructions

Food Security Locator App

The Food Asset Locator app is a tool that can help anyone find nearby consumer food resources including grocery stores, convenience stores, retailers accepting SNAP, food pantries and farmers markets.

SNAP Retailer data is provided by the USDA and updated annually. Food Pantry data is derived from a 2018 survey of all active food pantries in Wake County administered by the Capital Area Food Network (CAFN). Farmers Market and Community Garden data was created by the Wake County Long-Range Planning Division.



Information depicted herein is for reference purposes only and is derived from the best available sources. Wake County assumes no responsibility for errors arising from misuse of this map.