Please note that the text and visualizations on this page are still under development


The Analysis

Numbers Matter.

Based on our 12 years of collective experience in international development we know that numbers matter. Organizations including the World Bank, United Nations, and many NGOs compulsively measure then re-measure countries progress against thousands of indicators covering everything from maternal mortality to net exports. Over time this effort has given us a nuanced view into the development of countries. Yet, our understanding of development at the county, city, or community level is much less complete. Most data, presented at the national level, is conducive for UN reports but is virtually meaningless to those “on the ground” leaving city councilmen, non-profits, and the public guessing on how their communities compare. This is particularly true for communities in the United States were community level development data is rarely, if ever, collected.

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New Data. New Opportunities.

Starting in 2008 Baltimore’s City Health Department worked to address this information gap by collecting detailed data in each of Baltimore’s neighborhoods. While it had been long recognized that Baltimore was a deeply divided city this data, for the first time, allowed the city to understand just how significant its disparities were. Despite showing significant gaps in life expectancy, income, and education the data received only moderate attention when it was released in 2011. This is because the data, while shocking, wasn’t communicated in terms that the public can readily understand. In particular, there was no sense of scale that allowed the public to compare their neighborhood’s performance to more tangible measures. Given that Baltimore is a center for international health innovation many of its residents might be surprised to learn that conditions comparable to those in developing countries can be found only a few miles from their homes.


Our Methods.

The following analysis attempts to provide this sense of scale by comparing life expectancy in each of Baltimore’s neighborhoods to their international country equivalent. Data for this analysis was drawn from the Baltimore City Health Department’s 2011 Neighborhood Health Profiles and the World Bank’s 2011 National Life Expectancy Estimates. While Life Expectancy is just one single measure of development it is one of the only comparable and internationally recognized measures collected as part of the Health Department’s Neighborhood Health Assessment. In the future we hope to expand on this analysis to include additional measures that paint a more holistic picture of each neighborhoods’ development. For now, this analysis seeks to be a conversation starter that will spur more questions and dialogue in the weeks to come.

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Numbers Matter.

Based on our staff’s 12 years of collective experience in international development we know numbers matter. Organizations including the World Bank, United Nations, and many NGOs compulsively measure then re-measure countries progress against thousands of indicators covering everything from maternal mortality to net exports. Over time this effort has given us a nuanced view into the development of countries. Yet, our understanding of development at the county, city, or community level is much less complete. Most data, presented at the national level, is conducive for UN reports but is virtually meaningless to those “on the ground” leaving city councilmen, non-profits, and the public guessing on how their communities compare. This is particularly true for communities in the United States were community level development data is rarely, if ever, collected.


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New Data. New Opportunities.

Starting in 2008 Baltimore’s City Health Department worked to address this information gap by collecting detailed data in each of Baltimore’s neighborhoods. While it had been long recognized that Baltimore was a deeply divided city this data, for the first time, allowed the city to understand just how significant its disparities were. Despite showing significant gaps in life expectancy, income, and education the data received only moderate attention when it was released in 2011. This is because the data, while shocking, wasn’t communicated in terms that the public can readily understand. In particular, there was no sense of scale that allowed the public to compare their neighborhood’s performance to more tangible measures. Given that Baltimore is a center for international health innovation many of its residents might be surprised to learn that conditions comparable to those in developing countries can be found only a few miles from their homes.


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The Four Facts

  • Despite its small size, average life expectancies in Baltimore vary significantly from 62.9 years (Druid Heights) to 83.1 (Roland Park). This is equivalent to the life expectancies of Yemen (63 years) to Japan (83 years), but condensed into a single city.
  • Closer examination of the data shows that these two neighborhoods are not outliers. In fact, 11 percent of Baltimore’s residents live in neighborhoods with average life expectancies equivalent to those of least developed countries such as Yemen, Namibia, and Madagascar.
  • A further 82 percent of Baltimore’s population live in neighborhoods with life expectancies equivalent to developing countries such as North Korea, Bangladesh, or Cambodia.
  • Compared to international and national benchmarks 36% of Baltimore’s population live in neighborhoods where the average life expectancy is below the global average of 70.1 years. A further 93 percent of Baltimore’s residents live in neighborhoods where the average life expectancy is below the national average of 78.9 years

Seeing the Disparities


In the graphs below one can see Baltimore’s disparities in life expectancy broken down by neighborhood. The first graph compares Baltimore’s life expectancy distribution to the global life expectancy distribution. This demonstrates that, while the majority of Baltimore’s citizens have life expectancies higher than the global average, a significant 36 percent do not. Furthermore, this graph shows that 93 percent of Baltimore’s residents have life expectancies below the United States’ national average indicating there is clear need for improvement. Also, shading has been provided to see what portion of Baltimore’s population have life expectancies equivalent to “least developed”, “developing”, and “developed” countries.

Next see where each of Baltimore’s neighborhoods falls in this distribution. Neighborhoods are arranged by life expectancy from lowest to highest. The size of each neighborhood’s dot is relative to its population size. Furthermore, the country that has the closest equivalent life expectancy has been listed to the right of each neighborhood. Finally compare how life expectancy varies geographically in Baltimore using the interactive map below. Neighborhoods with lower levels of life expectancy are shaded red while those with higher life expectancies are shaded green. For further information, click on any neighborhood to see the average life expectancy of its residents and its country equivalent.

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Mapping the Disparities


Understanding the Factors


While it is easy to see that disparities among neighborhoods do exist, it is more difficult to understand why they exist. Experts, council members, non-profits, and the public have pointed fingers at a diverse range of issues from low incomes, to low graduation rates, to high homicide rates to explain why these disparities exist. Truth is, such disparities can’t be attributed to a single factor, but the interaction between multiple factors and conditions that have allowed such significant gaps to develop. Use the graphs below to draw your own conclusions. Click on each topic to see how different indicators are correlated with life expectancy in Baltimore’s neighborhoods. If you would like additional information click on a specific neighborhood of interest.



 


 

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 The video used at the top of this page was provided by OrangeHD under a Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) License.


 

Taylor CorbettBaltimore