Mapping Inequality: New Tool Highlights Distribution Of Resources In Baltimore County's Black Communities
BALTIMORE COUNTY - A recently released interactive mapping tool from the Brookings Metro's Valuing Black Assets Initiative in partnership with the NAACP presents a visual representation of Baltimore County's community assets in relation to its Black population.
The tool analyzes how community assets – divided into income and wealth, institutions, and infrastructure – are distributed among its Black residents. According to the Brookings Institute, the project aims to provide local agencies, institutions, and individuals with a more detailed understanding of the conditions the Black population faces in their respective areas.
The map divides Baltimore County into dozens of "block groups" representing smaller contiguous communities. Despite Black residents comprising 28% of the country's population, representation in critical areas of public life and infrastructure remains uneven, often falling short of proportional representation.
The Brookings data shows that Black life expectancy in Baltimore County stands at 75.2 years, slightly below the predicted value of 76.4 years according to the Black Progress Index. Additionally, while 22% of block groups are Black-majority (i.e., have Black populations over 50%), these areas often see fewer resources than their proportion of the population might suggest.
Concerning employment, the study finds that 19% of private sector jobs paying $3,334 per month or more are located in Black-majority block groups. In terms of public infrastructure, the distribution appears even less equitable. Only 19% of public libraries and places of worship, 14% of medical offices and hospitals, and 11% of state office buildings, courthouses, and post offices are located in Black-majority areas. Historic sites and museums fare similarly, with 11% located in these block groups.
One of Baltimore County's most striking disparities can be found in higher education, with no four-year, non-profit colleges located in Black-majority block groups. However, 20% of local, county, and regional parks are located in these areas. Furthermore, 24% of the working-age population live within a 45-minute commute to work in Black-majority block groups, indicating potential job access and mobility challenges.
In the retail sector, only 15% of restaurants, retail establishments, and amusement facilities are found in Black-majority block groups. Healthcare resources show similar patterns, with only 22% of hospital beds located in these areas.
While these statistics clearly show disparities between communities within the county, contrasting Baltimore County's data with Howard County's reveals how Baltimore County has made significant progress in alleviating these issues.
Despite its smaller Black population at 19% compared to Baltimore County's 28%, Howard County shows a higher Black life expectancy of 79.4 years, near the Black Progress Index's predicted 80.2 years.
Despite the higher life expectancy, Howard County's distribution of resources is strikingly different. Only 2% of block groups are Black-majority, and these areas house a significantly smaller proportion of high-paying jobs (6%), public libraries and places of worship (3%), and medical offices and hospitals (9%).
The disparities become more evident when looking at state office buildings, courthouses, post offices, historic sites, museums, and four-year non-profit colleges - none of which are located in these block groups in Howard County.
The area also lacks recreational facilities and green spaces, with no local, county, or regional parks in its Black-majority block groups. Job accessibility is also lower, with only 3% of the working-age population living within a 45-minute commute to work in these areas.
Regarding retail and healthcare, Howard County trails behind as well. Only 7% of restaurants, retail establishments, and amusement facilities are located in Black-majority block groups, and none of the county's hospital beds are found in these areas.
The initiative underscores the importance of nuanced, hyper-local data in illuminating the specific barriers different communities face. The goal remains to advance social and economic justice, ensuring that community assets and opportunities are distributed equitably and that the quality of life for Black residents is not just a prediction from an index but a reality reflected in the communities they call home.