As emphasized earlier, the centerpiece of this project is the analysis of neighborhood-level health trends and correlations that will be presented in sections 9 and 10. This section presents data on conditions and trends in our various categories of independent variables that we believe add to our ability to interpret ecological relationships and their implications. We develop descriptive characterizations of the context of urban change under way in the 1990s as the health trends we study were emerging. We examine conditions at the metropolitan as well as neighborhood levels, for the five study sites and for the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas on average.
Current notions of trends in urban neighborhoods are largely formed by literature based on data from the 1980s. Most prominent have been the accounts of the deterioration of neighborhoods in the inner city and the increasing concentration of urban poverty in that decade (Jargowsky 1997; Wilson 1987). That story featured the decline of well-paying manufacturing jobs in the cities and the departure of the black middle class from urban ghettos, leaving little in the way of economic opportunity, role models, or supportive institutions for those left behind. Increasingly recognized as critical in this mix was the decrease in the share of all adults in these areas who had jobs (Wilson 1996). Much of the research on the relationships between neighborhood conditions and health (e.g., as reviewed by Ellen, Mijanovich, and Dillman 2001) was developed in that context, and it generally found deteriorating health going hand-in-hand with declines in other neighborhood conditions.
This section reviews data on what happened to these background conditions in the 1990s. It is structured in accord with the indicator categories presented earlier, although we felt it would be wise to characterize differences among the five study sites at the metropolitan level first before going into variations in neighborhood conditions. Thus, we begin with a review of changes and differences in metropolitan demography, economic strength, and spatial structure. We then examine trends in the categories established for neighborhood conditions: (1) socioeconomic conditions (demographic, economic, and social); (2) physical stressors; (3) social stressors; (4) social networks.
METROPOLITAN CONDITIONS AND TRENDS
Demographic and Economic Change
Table 8.1 shows that the total size of the metropolitan populations of the five study sites in 2000 did not vary dramatically. They ranged from 1.2 million (Providence) to 2.4 million (Oakland). All are among the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the country, and their average size, 1.9 million, is modestly above the 1.7 million average for that group.(24)
Along other dimensions, however, the five are very different from one another.(25)Among the most important are differences in the pace of population and employment growth. Population in three of the sites grew more rapidly than the 14 percent per decade rate experienced by the large metropolitan areas on average: Denver at 30 percent, and Indianapolis and Oakland at 16 and 15 percent, respectively. The other two sites experienced much slower population growth: Cleveland at 2 percent and Providence at 5 percent.(26)
Employment changes followed the same general pattern. Cleveland and Providence have grown slowly, Oakland and Indianapolis are more in the middle range, and Denver's growth has been most rapid by far. Rapid growth creates tensions (e.g., difficulty in keeping up with infrastructure demands), but for examining the effects on health outcomes, the disadvantages of slow growth (e.g., difficulty of providing employment opportunities to low-income residents) are probably more important.
|Largest 100 Metros||Cleveland||Denver||Indianapolis||Oakland||Providence|
|Population growth %||1980-90||11||-3||14||6||18||5|
|% metropolitan population by race|
|% age 25 and over
with college degree
|Ave. family income (1999 $ thous.)||1990||65||59||64||60||76||61|
|Poverty rate, %||1990||12||12||10||10||9||10|
|Source: Urban Institute analysis of U.S. census data 1980-2000.|
Differences in racial/ethnic composition are also pronounced. The 2000 census data indicate that the two Midwestern metropolises have comparatively large African-American populations (14 percent in Indianapolis, about the same as the average for the top 100, with a notably larger 19 percent in Cleveland) and much smaller nonblack minority shares (Hispanic, Asian, and other at 5 percent in each, compared with a 22 percent average for the top 100). Denver and Providence exhibit the reverse pattern, with higher nonblack minority shares (23 and 13 percent, respectively) and low black shares (6 and 5 percent). Oakland stands alone with large shares in both categories: a remarkable total minority share of 50 percent (13 percent black plus 37 percent nonblack).
Differences in other economic indicators on table 8.1 are generally as expected given what economic growth rates suggest about comparative economic health. Denver and Indianapolis had the lowest unemployment rates in 2000 (4 percent compared with 5 to 6 percent for the others). Two other measures show important improvements for all five sites over the 1990s. In all of them, the share of all adults with college degrees increased (from 20 to 24 percent on average), and average family income (constant 1999 dollars) increased significantly (by 13 percent on average). Still, there were notable differences. Denver and Oakland had shares with college degrees (34 to 35 percent) much above the rates for the other sites (23 to 26 percent). Income growth was most rapid in Denver (20 percent), in the middle range in Indianapolis and Oakland (14 and 15 percent, respectively) and slower in Cleveland and Providence (10 and 4 percent, respectively).
Interestingly, the poverty rate (the percentage of the population in poverty) did not vary by much across these sites in 2000 and had not changed by much over the preceding decade. As might be expected based on the economic indicators discussed above, the overall poverty rate in 2000 was lowest in Denver and Indianapolis (8 to 9 percent), but the others were not far behind (10 to 12 percent).
Metropolitan Spatial Structure
There is a substantial literature on the deleterious effects of racial segregation on society, recently including impacts on health (Ellen 2000). Similar concerns have been raised about segregation of the poor within the nation's urban regions--the spatial concentration of poverty. Jargowsky (1997) notes that in neighborhoods where very high proportions of the population are poor--
families have to cope not only with their own poverty, but also with the social isolation and economic deprivation of the hundreds, if not thousands of other families who live near them. The spatial concentration of poor people acts to magnify poverty and exacerbate its effects (p. 1).
A decade ago, researchers found that while it remained high, racial segregation (blacks vs. whites) generally abated somewhat in the 1980s, but that decade had seen an acceleration of what appeared to be an inexorable increase in the concentration of poverty. The news from the 2000 census in this regard is more positive. Black/white segregation continued to abate modestly, and there was a clear reduction in the concentrated poverty in most of the country.
Table 8.2 presents the data. The first lines show the changes in the concentration of poverty (measured as the share of the poor population in each area that live in high-poverty neighborhood - those with poverty rates of 30 percent or more). The remainder of the table presents values for commonly used indexes of segregation or dissimilarity. The dissimilarity index measures the evenness of a distribution, with values ranging from 0 (complete integration) to 100 (complete segregation). It can be interpreted as the percentage of a minority group's population that would have to move to achieve full integration (Massey and Denton 1988).
Several points are noteworthy about the data for 2000. First, the overall reduction in concentrated poverty was indeed significant. While, as noted above, the poverty rate itself did not change much in 100 largest metropolitan areas the 1990s, the share of the poor living in high poverty areas dropped from 31 percent to 26 percent. Second, however, there were important differences across cities. Cleveland has the most severe levels of segregation and poverty concentration by every measure on the chart. With respect to poverty concentration, Providence was second highest, but interestingly enough, with respect to black/white segregation it is now by far the lowest. Dissimilarity index values with respect to poverty for Denver, Indianapolis, and Oakland are similar, but Denver's current population share of poor in high-poverty tracts (8 percent) is much below the 13 to 15 percent level of the other two.
With respect to site-by-site changes over the decade, although the differences are generally modest, the data show improvements by every measure for every site, except for the concentration of poverty in Providence, which deepened considerably. The most sizeable improvements were registered by Cleveland (all measures), Denver (particularly with respect to poverty concentration), and Providence (with respect to black/white segregation).
|% of poor in high-
|poor from nonpoor||2000||36||45||39||37||38||40|
|blacks from whites||2000||NA||77||61||70||62||32|
|Source: % of poor in high-poverty tracts from Kingsley and Pettit, forthcoming; index on segregation of the poor from Tatian and Wilson, forthcoming; index of black/white segregation from U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2002.|
The maps in figures 8.1 through 8.10(27)provide orientations to the spatial patterns in the central areas of the five study sites. All show 1990-defined census tract boundaries, and are at a uniform scale: 1 inch = 3 miles. The first map for each city shows 1990 poverty rates for all census tracts. In almost all cities, high-poverty areas tend to be located in
a ring surrounding or adjacent to the central business district. An exception is metropolitan Oakland, where in addition to a high-poverty cluster next to the central district there are a number of other poverty concentrations (e.g., on the coast and around the university in Berkeley and stretching along major highways to the southeast of central Oakland).
Cuyahoga County, OH. Poverty Rate 1990
Cuyahoga County, OH. Predominant Race 1990
Denver County, CO. Poverty Rate 1990
Denver County, CO. Predominant Race 1990
Marion County (Indianapolis), IN. Poverty Rate 1990
Marion County (Indianapolis), IN. Predominant Race 1990
Alameda County, CA. Poverty Rate 1990
Alameda County, CA. Predominant Race 1990
Providence County, RI. Poverty Rate 1990
Providence County, RI. Predominant Race 1990
The second map in each set shows the predominant racial/ethnic group in each tract in 1990 overlaid against a dot pattern showing the location of high-poverty tracts (the predominant group accounts for 60 percent or more of the population of the tract).
- In Cleveland, there is a significant, but not complete, overlap of predominantly African-American population and high poverty to the east and southeast of the city center. High-poverty areas farther west are predominantly white.
- Denver has a more complex pattern. Predominantly Hispanic tracts are almost all in the high-poverty category, forming something like a semicircle to the northwest of the city center. There is a cluster of predominantly black neighborhoods just below the northern border to the east of the center, about half of which are high-poverty. There are also a large number of racially mixed tracts (no group with 60 percent or more) generally adjacent to the areas of Hispanic and black concentration.
- The pattern in Indianapolis is simpler: a large concentration of predominantly African-American neighborhoods to the north of the center (about half of which are high-poverty), just a few racially mixed neighborhoods (spatially scattered), and all the rest predominantly white (eight tracts are also high-poverty).
- Oakland's pattern reflects what we have already said about its racial/ethnic diversity: by far the largest number of racially mixed tracts, with two major concentrations that are predominantly black (one in northwest Oakland and one about five miles southeast of the city center). Almost all of the tracts directly east of Oakland and Berkeley are predominantly white, sitting on the other side of the hills inland from those two cities.
- The Providence area has no tracts with a predominant race other than white, but it has several racially mixed tracts, significantly overlapping the high-poverty clusters north and especially south of the city center. (A number of the racially mixed tracts to the south of the city center shown on this map had become predominantly Hispanic by 2000.)
NEIGHBORHOOD CONDITIONS AND TRENDS
The remainder of this section presents data on the changing characteristics of different types of neighborhoods in the central city or county in each metropolitan area. As noted in section 2, these central areas are defined as Cuyahoga County in metropolitan Cleveland, and the cities of Denver (same as Denver County), Indianapolis (same as Marion County), Oakland, and Providence.
For each site, we contrast conditions in high-poverty neighborhoods (those with 1990 poverty rates of 30 percent or more) with those in all other neighborhoods. This approach avoids a serious interpretation issue that often arises when citywide averages are compared. The conditions in City A may look worse than in City B only because the former has a higher proportion of high-poverty neighborhoods, while in fact conditions in the high-poverty neighborhoods themselves are better in A than B. We are most interested in finding out whether, and to what extent, conditions in high-poverty neighborhoods have improved.
It is important to note that we purposefully chose to focus on neighborhoods (tracts) that were in the high-poverty category in 1990 rather than the largely overlapping group that were in that category as of 2000. If we had chosen the latter we would have missed changes for a large number of tracts whose poverty rates dropped below the 30 percent threshold in the 1990s, a story that is critical to understanding the dynamics of change in that decade. We recognize that this choice omits tracts whose fortunes went in the other direction (i.e., whose poverty rates increased to a point above 30 percent). There is a considerably smaller number in that category, however. Their story is also worth telling, but we judge that doing so here would have added complexity and the benefits would not have been worth the cost.
Table 8.3 shows that there are indeed variations in the shares of population that live in high-poverty neighborhoods in these sites; a range in 2000 from only 7 percent in Indianapolis up to 34 percent in Providence, with the other three sites in the 15 to 18 percent range. Note that these shares had not changed much at this city/county level, in contrast to more notable declines in high-poverty shares at the metropolitan level.
Population Growth and Composition
Table 8.3 also makes it clear that minorities are concentrated in high-poverty neighborhoods in these sites. Across the five in 2000, on average, minorities account for 77 percent of the population in high-poverty tracts vs. 42 percent in other tracts. As was the case at the metropolitan level, blacks are the dominant minority in Cleveland and Indianapolis, Hispanics are more important in Denver and Providence, and Oakland stands out as the most mixed racially. Minorities accounted for 94 percent of Oakland's high-poverty area population, compared with a low of 66 percent in Indianapolis.
Perhaps the most dramatic change during the 1990s, however, was the growth of Hispanics and other nonblack minorities. Except for Cleveland and the nonpoor sections of Indianapolis and Providence, black shares of total population actually declined. The share in the Hispanic and other category, in contrast, increased everywhere (poor and nonpoor neighborhoods in all cities), but particularly in Providence, Oakland, and Denver. In high-poverty neighborhoods, this Hispanic and other share went up from 38 to 54 percent in Providence, from 39 to 52 percent in Oakland, and from 50 to 56 percent in Denver.
|% city/co. pop. in '90||1990||17||18||9||14||34|
|% population black|
|% population Hispanic and other minority|
|% population foreign born|
|% population change|
|Source: Urban Institute analysis of U.S. census data 1980-2000.|
Only Denver, Oakland, and Providence have sizeable shares of foreign-born population. The foreign born are concentrated in high-poverty areas in these three cities, although their shares increased markedly in both high- and low-poverty areas in the 1990s.
As to overall population dynamics, high-poverty areas in Cleveland (Cuyahoga) underwent a 9 percent population loss in the 1990s, compared with no change in other parts of the county, and high-poverty neighborhoods in Indianapolis lost 10 percent, compared with a gain of 10 percent in the rest of the city. In contrast, high-poverty neighborhoods in the other three cities gained population (ranging from 7 percent in Providence to 20 percent in Denver) and did so at rates generally comparable to those for the rest of their cities.
Economic and Social Conditions
Table 8.4 identifies six indicators of economic and social well-being. The data for 2000 show that, as expected, conditions remained significantly more problematic in high-poverty areas than other neighborhoods with respect to every indicator in every one of our five sites. However, the data also show that in the 1990s, conditions in high-poverty areas had improved in 28 of 30 possible cases (six indicators times five sites), and the problem gap between high-poverty and other neighborhoods had diminished in 27 of the 30.
Among the sites, the high-poverty neighborhoods in Cleveland evidenced either the worst or next to the worst scores on five of the six measures, and Oakland was worst or next to the worst on four. Denver's high-poverty areas registered the least problematic conditions on five of the six measures.
- Poverty rates in high-poverty tracts declined on average from 39 percent to 34 percent over the decade (year 2000 range from 37 percent in Cleveland and Providence to 29 percent in Denver). The average poverty rate in high-poverty tracts for the five cities dropped from 3.4 to 2.7 times that for other tracts.
- Unemployment rates in high-poverty tracts dropped from 15 percent to 13 percent on average (year 2000 range from 16 percent in Cleveland and Oakland to 10 percent in Denver). The high-poverty average dropped from 2.4 to 2.2 times that for other areas.
- Employment rates (employed as percentage of population age 16 and over) in high-poverty tracts increased on average from 44 percent to 48 percent over the decade (year 2000 range from 43 percent in Indianapolis to 57 percent in Denver). The high-poverty average increased from 0.74 to 0.78 times that for other tracts.
- Adults without high school diplomas in high-poverty tracts dropped from 47 percent to 41 percent on average (year 2000 range from 45 percent in Oakland to 36 percent in Indianapolis). The high-poverty average dropped from 2.10 to 2.06 times that for other areas.
|Employed as % of population age 16 and over|
|% population age 25 and over, no high school degree|
|% families with children, female headed|
|% households receiving public assistance|
|Source: Urban Institute analysis of U.S. census data 1990-2000|
- Female-headed shares of all families with children in high-poverty tracts dropped from 56 percent to 50 percent on average (year 2000 range from 62 percent in Cleveland to 40 percent in Denver). The high-poverty average dropped from 1.9 to 1.6 times that for other areas.
- Shares of households receiving public assistance in high-poverty tracts declined on average from 27 to 13 percent over the decade (year 2000 range from 18 percent in Oakland to 6 percent in Denver). The high-poverty average dropped from 3.6 to 3.0 times that for other tracts.
Two indicators related to public assistance have been used in the cross-site analysis. The first one (referred to in the above paragraph and in table 8.4) is a census measure that reflects the percentage of households who said they received public assistance in April 2000. This is a fairly comprehensive measure defined to include income from AFDC/TANF, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and General Assistance. It is a self-reported measure, however, and researchers have found that it often understates participation rates determined from administrative records. The second measure, AFDC/TANF recipiency, is obtained from administrative records and is an indicator of share of all population or households of an area participating in this specific program at a point-in-time.(28)
NNIP partners generally have some information from administrative records on AFDC/TANF recipiency, but Cleveland is the only one of the five sites that has a consistently defined time series going back to the early 1990s (figure 8.11). The pattern in the Cleveland data tells the same basic story as the census public assistance measure. Recipiency rates decline dramatically over the decade, and they do so more rapidly in high-poverty neighborhoods than elsewhere. For high-poverty areas, for example, Cleveland's administrative data (percent of population receiving AFDC/TANF) show a rate of 31 percent in 1992, going down to 14 percent in 2000, whereas the census measure (percentage of households receiving public assistance) was 35 percent in 1990, going down to 17 percent in 2000. The AFDC/TANF measures show the path of change annually over the decade. Clearly, the decline in Cleveland started long before the passage of the welfare reform law in 1996, and may reflect earlier welfare reform efforts taking place in the state. The census measure for Cleveland showed the 2000 public assistance recipiency rate in high-poverty neighborhoods on average to be 5.7 times that of other neighborhoods, whereas the AFDC/TANF rate in high-poverty neighborhoods was 7.0 times that for other areas in that year.
Some consistently defined data for TANF recipiency based on population are available for two other sites near the end of the decade. The 1998-2000 TANF recipiency rates for Indianapolis were 8 percent on average for the high-poverty neighborhoods (exactly the same as the for census rate in 2000) and a 2 percent average for other neighborhoods (compared with 3 percent according to the census). The Denver TANF data do not match the census figures quite as well. They show a 2 percent recipiency rate for high-poverty neighborhoods in 1999 (compared with 6 percent by the census measure in 2000), and 1 percent for other neighborhoods (compared with 3 percent by the 2000 census measure).
For Providence, the welfare indicator available for this analysis was the percentage of households that received AFDC/TANF (not the percentage of population used in other sites), so it is not directly comparable with the other sites. In all three years available (1996, 1998, and 2000), the AFDC/TANF household rates for high-poverty areas are about 1.8 times the rates for nonpoor tracts. The high-poverty areas fell from 19 percent of households receiving AFDC/TANF in 1996 to 16 percent in 2000, with the nonpoor area rates dropping by the same amount (from 11 percent in 1996 to 9 percent in 2000). The census public assistance numbers are very similar (15 percent for high poverty areas and 8 percent for nonpoor areas).
Neighborhood Physical Conditions
Various types of environmental and other physical problems in a neighborhood can contribute directly to health problems. We do not have data on environmental hazards, but we do have some indirect indicators of neighborhood physical conditions that may be of influence (table 8.5).
|% households overcrowded|
|% housing units built before 1960|
|Source: Urban Institute analysis of U.S. census data 1990-2000. Mortgage data are calculated from the 1995-2001 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act files.|
The first indicator is the percentage of all occupied housing units that are overcrowded (with more than one person per room). Overcrowding rates are very low in America, a fact that is reflected in the data on table 8.5, but in all cases, overcrowding is substantially more prevalent in high-poverty areas than in other types of neighborhoods. The rates have also been increasing recently, particularly in regions with rapidly growing Hispanic populations. Indeed, the table shows that the three sites where that is occurring (Denver, Oakland, and Providence) have overcrowding rates that are both higher and increasing more rapidly than the other two sites. Overcrowding even in high-poverty tracts in Cleveland and Indianapolis is quite low (4 to 5 percent) and did not increase over the 1990s.
The remaining indicators on table 8.5 refer to the physical quality of housing. The first of these is the age of housing: specifically, the share of an area's housing units in 1990 that had been built 30 years or more before. A higher share of housing in high-poverty areas is in this category than is found in higher-income areas in all sites except Providence.
The other two indicators, average value of owner-occupied homes (as reported on the census) and average value of home mortgages originated, are more current. The first measure represents the self-reported value of all single-family owner-occupied homes, while the second measures the mortgage loan amount borrowed for home purchases. However, the two corroborate each other on some interesting circumstances and trends. First, in both cases, the values almost everywhere are lower in high-poverty areas (on average in 2000/2001, high-poverty area home values were 67 percent of those in other neighborhoods, and mortgage values were 76 percent of those in other neighborhoods).(29)
Second, however, both measures had increased more rapidly in the high-poverty neighborhoods than they had elsewhere in all of these cities (except Providence) in the 1990s. In these four cities on average, home values increased by 56 percent over the decade in the high-poverty areas compared with 31 percent in other areas.
These data all reinforce our notion of the differences between the two older sites in the Midwest (Cleveland and Indianapolis--2000 average home values of $70,000 to $73,000 in high-poverty areas) and the other three that have been experiencing more growth in general and more immigration in particular. The high-poverty neighborhood averages were $157,000 in Oakland, $149,000 in Denver, and $106,000 in Providence.
Providence is an outlier by these measures. In that site only, home values in the 1990s were higher in high-poverty neighborhoods than in the rest of the city, and values declined over the decade in all areas.(30)
Neighborhood Conditions - Social Stressors
As noted in section 7, the main indicators in this area relate to crime in the neighborhood, particularly violent crime. Figure 8.12 shows rates of reported violent crime for all five cities in the 1990s, and figure 8.13 does the same for reported property crime (in each, the top panels show the average rates for high-poverty tracts and the lower panels show them for other tracts). The series cover the entire decade in Cleveland and Denver, but consistently defined data are available only for eight years (1992-2000) in Indianapolis and four years (1996-2000) in Oakland. Only one year of data was available for Providence census tracts, so it is not included in the figures.
The levels are very different from each other. The annual averages across years for violent crime in high-poverty neighborhoods range from 8 per thousand population (Providence) to 34 per thousand (Indianapolis). In lower poverty neighborhoods, the averages range from 2 percent (Cleveland) to 16 percent (Oakland). For property crimes in high-poverty neighborhoods, annual averages across years range from 39 per thousand population (Oakland) to 101 per thousand (Indianapolis). In low-poverty neighborhoods, the averages range from 14 percent (Cleveland) to 66 percent (Oakland).
The graphs evidence one surprising result. In Oakland, for both violent and property crimes, the rates in low-poverty neighborhoods are consistently well above those in high-poverty neighborhoods. We questioned this outcome, but after checking, we found no reason to doubt the data, although we have found no explanation for it so far.
For the other four cities, however, the results are as expected. Crime rates are always higher in high-poverty neighborhoods on average than in the other parts of these cities. For violent crime, the gap is greatest in Cleveland, where the high-poverty average is 8.9 times that for other areas, and smallest in Providence (1.2). For property crimes, the same cities mark the extremes. The high-poverty average in Cleveland is 4.9 times that for other areas, while in Providence it is again 1.2 times higher.
One other finding is consistent across all four cities with trend data, for both types of areas within cities and for both types of crimes: Reported crime rates declined significantly in the 1990s. There were notable variations in the speed of the decline, however. The most rapid declines were in Oakland, with violent crime dropping at 14 to 16 percent per year and property crime at 12 percent per year in both types of areas (over the four-year period for which data are available). The slowest declines were in Indianapolis, with violent crime declining annually by 2 percent and property crime by 3 to 4 percent (eight years of data, again with little difference between high- and low-poverty areas).
Denver is the only city for which annual rates of decline were consistently higher in high-poverty areas than in the rest of the city: 5.8 vs. 2.2 percent for violent crime, and 10.2 vs. 4.1 percent for property crime (data span a 10-year period).
Neighborhood Stability and Social Networks
All of the measures on table 8.6 are crude proxies for the characteristics Ellen et al (2002) were interested in for this category, but they do offer additional insight into differences within and between cities. Overall, they suggest that high-poverty neighborhoods are notably less stable than other areas in these cities and that the degree to which this is so did not change much over the 1990s.
- The share of households that had moved at least once in the five years before the 2000 census was higher in high-poverty neighborhoods than in the rest of the city in all sites; average 56 percent vs. 49 percent (same numbers as in 1990). Rates in the rapidly growing cities were higher than in the others: 63 percent in Denver's high-poverty neighborhoods vs. 46 percent in Cleveland's.
- An area made up of homeowners is generally considered to be more stable than one dominated by renters. On average across sites in 2000, renters accounted for 70 percent of all households in high-poverty neighborhoods vs. 45 percent elsewhere. Variation across sites was not marked, nor was change in these relationships over the decade.
- Low rental vacancy rates indicate tight housing markets and, normally, problems with housing affordability for low-income groups. Here, there are more differences across places and time. In the two older Midwest cities (Cleveland and Indianapolis), vacant rentals are much more prevalent in high-poverty areas, and this relationship remained much the same from 1990 to 2000. In the other cities, rental markets in high-poverty neighborhoods got much tighter in the 1990s, and their vacancy rates at the end of the decade were close to those in other parts of the city.
The final measure on the table is the number of home purchase mortgages in each area per 1,000 units. Again, Cleveland and Indianapolis (and in this case, Providence) evidence a pattern typical of older cities: much lower rates in high-poverty areas than in the rest of the city, where markets are more active. However, in both types of areas in all cities, this measure was going up significantly in the 1990s. On average, comparing the 1995/96 rate with the one for 2000/01, it increased from 14 to 27 in high-poverty areas and from 29 to 39 elsewhere.
|% households in different house, 5 years ago|
|% households renters|
|Rental vacancy rate|
|Home purchase mortgages per 1,000 1990 housing units|
|Source: Urban Institute analysis of U.S. census data 1990-2000. Mortgage data are calculated from the 1995-2001 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act files.|
Whereas trends for America's cities in the 1980s seemed almost uniformly distressing, the 1990s tell a very different story. City populations generally increased more (or declined less) than they did in the 1980s, and the changes were not all confined to the better parts of town. Population declines were stemmed in a number of high-poverty areas, and growth returned to some (Kingsley and Pettit 2002).
It appears that there was a notable overall deconcentration of poverty in most, although not all, urban regions. In the 100 largest metropolitan areas, the share of the poor living in high-poverty areas declined markedly. Also, a number of other studies have shown that key social indicators (e.g., crime rates) improved substantially in many cities during the latter part of the decade, and we find similar trends in other census indicators in this analysis.
Overall, however, it seems likely that the 1990s will be known more for diversity of outcomes than uniform improvement, with many cities and neighborhoods within cities still declining as others have begun to turn around. It is clear that racial and ethnic diversity have increased substantially in urban America, and these changes will also surely have had effects on determinants of health at the neighborhood level.
In addition, it is important to remember that the reference data of the recent decennial census (April 2000) was near the peak of the economic boom that began in the mid-1990s. Circumstances may well have deteriorated since then. Nonetheless, even given that prospect, the review in this section represents a marked contrast to the almost universally bleak assessments that emanated from reviews of trends in American cities a decade ago.
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