City Lab: Life expectancy is associated with segregation in U.S. cities

City Lab, June 6, 2019: Life expectancy is associated with segregation in U.S. cities

Two children are born and settle down in New York City. They live parallel lives, separated by a few blocks and a handle of corner bodegas. But the one who grows old on the Upper East Side lives to be nearly 90; and the one in East Harlem dies at 71. What happened?

The glaring divergence in life expectancy for these hypothetical—but all-too-typical—Manhattan residents is strongly associated with segregation, according to researchers in the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine.

Using data from the City Health Dashboard, a national database that compares 500 cities with populations of 66,000-plus on a series of health metrics, the NYU research team identified 56 cities with the largest life expectancy gaps between census tracts. Cities whose residents had the greatest variance between lifetimes—sometimes by 20 to 30 years—were also the places where racial and ethnic lines between neighborhoods are most stark.

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