Home | BaltimoreBrew.com

Two reports illustrate the paradox of Baltimore: a high-poverty city that attracts young, educated

The city’s geographic concentration of poverty hasn’t changed much over the last four decades, a report finds

Above: This map from City Observatory documents Baltimore’s poverty by census track from 1970 through 2010.

Local media recently touted Baltimore’s inclusion on a list of 51 metropolitan areas that are magnets for young college-educated newcomers.

Neighborhoods like Canton, Hampden and Locust Point – all within three miles of Baltimore’s central business district – are drawing 25-to-34-year-old residents in droves, according to a report from City Observatory, an Oregon-based think tank.

More than 25,000 educated “millennials” were living in communities close to Baltimore’s so-called urban core in 2014 compared to only 13,000 in 2010, an impressive 92% increase.

But Baltimore was also included in another City Observatory report – one that garnered little local media attention. It concerns the persistence of concentrated poverty in Baltimore over the last 40 years.

That report, called “Lost in Place,” looked at 1,100 census tracts in major metropolitan areas across the U.S. from 1970 through 2010 and found, in most cases, that census tracts that were poor in 1970 were likely to be as poor – or even poorer – four decades later.

This finding was consistent among the 51 metro areas, regardless of the overall revitalization or “gentrification” in nearby communities.

While a handful of tracts around the country rebounded, about 750 of the 1,100 still had high poverty rates – double the national average – despite 40 years of government housing and social welfare programs.

“The persistence and spread of concentrated poverty,  not gentrification, is our biggest urban challenge,” argues author Joe Cortwright, who runs the Knight Foundation-funded think tank.

Poverty and Prosperity

The report looked at census tracts within 10 miles of a city’s urban core. Not surprisingly, Baltimore’s high poverty co-exists in close proximity to its most economically stable and prosperous communities.

On the interactive “Lost in Place” map and graph, census tracts are color-coded and include their distance from the central business district,the number of residents in poverty decade by decade – and the percent of residents living in poverty in 1970 and in 2010.

Purple census tracts have had chronic high poverty (35% or more) for 40 years. One such tract is the area surrounding the M&T Bank Stadium and the new casino, about a half mile from the central business district, where 32% of residents lived in poverty in 1970 and 35% do today.

Yellow census tracts are areas (such as the tract that encompasses much of Rosemont in West Baltimore near the Gwynns Falls Park ) where poverty has increased  to 30% or more since 1970. City Observatory terms these tracts “newly poor.” Poverty in the Rosemont tract rose from 15% in 1970 to 42% in 2010.

Gray census tracts indicate communities with varying rates of poverty, but never as high as 30%.

Over 50 High-Poverty Areas

In 2010, Baltimore had 55 high-poverty census tracts. Only one formerly high-poverty tract (colored green on the City Observatory map) fully rebounded since 1970.

That’s the tract near the Johns Hopkins Medical Complex in East Baltimore, which now has 13% of residents living in poverty compared to 43% in 1970. During that time, the tract’s population living in poverty decreased from 1,479 to 179 residents.

This decline, however, is mostly a result of the large-scale displacement of residents from the Middle East neighborhood around the Hopkins campus by the city-sponsored East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI).

Most Popular