Monday, January 17, 2011
UNT grad student researches MLK Boulevards around the country
Is MLK Blvd. as dangerous as comedian Chris Rock says it is?
Flickr user Jason McHuff
DENTON Next time you find yourself taking a cruise down Martin Luther King Blvd., either in Dallas or on one of the other 730 streets named after the civil rights leader who spent a lifetime promoting non-violence, think about University of North Texas graduate student Eric Katzenberger. He decided it was time someone found out once and for all if the MLK-named streets around the country really are as dangerous as Chris Rock says in one of his recent comedy routines.
In Texas, MLK-named streets are in Dallas, Austin, Houston, and Galveston. While the majority of MLK-named roads are located in southern states, the moniker can also be found further north in Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin – locations where there was little activity during the civil rights movement.
So, are all MLK-named streets in the United States located in bad neighborhoods? Katzenberger's research gives us a clear “maybe.” The bottom line is, It’s not as bad as you think. Rock jokes that his friends should "run" if they find themselves on MLK Blvd. Katzenberger says you probably don’t need your running shoes after all.
In Dallas, he found “the street was previously named after a founder of the KKK. What an appropriate street to rename after Dr. King,” he says.
His national findings do reveal that most MLK neighborhoods are predominantly African-American, and the residents have average lower incomes compared to residents in other areas with the same percentage of African-American residents. Katzenberger found, too, that in the MLK neighborhoods, the women-to-men ratio is unbalanced. Fourteen percent of households within MLK blockgroups consist of single mothers with children, twice the national percentage of 7%.
But the study also showed that hundreds of MLK streets exist in predominantly white neighborhoods. As many as 20 to 30 of these streets are located in wealthy, exclusively white neighborhoods.
What surprised him the most? “It’s the diversity found along MLKs in America,” he says. “While many streets do fit the typical stereotype, many communities across America have renamed a street after Dr. King and committed funds to develop those areas and support public recreation along MLKs, like with parks or something similar.”
Katzenberger, who is currently working on his master's degree in economics from UNT, also enlisted the help of his mentor and the co-author of the project, Dr. Nathan Berg, an associate professor of economics at the University of Texas at Dallas.
“I had 1,001 ideas and was running in every possible direction,” Katzenberger says about the project. “Dr. Berg had a lot of experience answering questions of this nature,” particularly when it came to the DFW street research Katzenberger needed.
Katzenberger has a simple declaration for Rock's comedy sketch: “Hey Chris, your routine is full of valuable social commentary. We appreciate the material, [so] let's have lunch on an MLK Blvd. one of these days and we'll see who runs first,” he says.
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