Baltimore Demographics: The City by the Numbers

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As Baltimore disintegrates due to violence, it is worth looking at how different the city is from its home state of Maryland. The differences are in many cases tremendous, and they point to the extremely low income, high unemployment, low home ownership and high percentage of blacks and African Americans compared to the state.

Although the city of 622,793, based on Census data, is similar to Maryland in age and sex composition, most of the similarities end there. Maryland is among the most wealthy states in the nation, based on a household income figure of $73,783 derived from a Census analysis that runs from 2009 to 2014. A great deal of this high figure is due to rich suburban counties near Washington, D.C. However, Baltimore households have an average income of $41,385, or 56% of the state total. The poverty rate in Baltimore is an extremely high 23.8%, based on persons living below the poverty level from the Census measurement from 2009 to 2013 period. Maryland’s level is 9.8%, well below the national rate of just above 15%.

In Baltimore, 63.3% of residents are black or African American. The figure for the state is 30.1%. The Maryland figure is well above the national average of 13%, likely pulled higher by Baltimore, which has about 10% of the state’s population.

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The home ownership rate in Baltimore is 48.3%, against Maryland’s 67.6%. The median value of occupied homes is $157,900, against the state’s median of $292,700.

Black-owned firms in Baltimore were 34.6% of the total in 2007, according to the Census. Within Maryland, the figure was 19.3%. The same year, retail sales per capita were $6,793 in Baltimore. The Maryland figure was $13,429 in 2007.

According to a research study covered by the Baltimore Sun:

When a teenager from East Baltimore was asked to describe his neighborhood, he spoke of “big rats going around in people’s trash, vacant houses full of squatters and needles on the ground.” A young woman in New Delhi, asked the same question, described the dirt and the “dirty water found lying on the roads,” while a young man in Ibadan, a large city in Nigeria, spoke of the smell of urine and streets “littered with paper and other refuse.”

All three teenagers live in the poorest neighborhoods in their communities and were surveyed as part of the “WAVE” study, a global research project that examines the well-being of adolescents in vulnerable environments around the world. Led by Dr. Kristen Mmari, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, the survey assessed health challenges faced by 2,400 15- to 19-year-olds from impoverished areas in Baltimore, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Ibadan and New Delhi, as well as their perceptions of their environments.

The researchers found many similarities — in all five cities, adolescents were exposed to unsanitary conditions, substance abuse and violence — but the differences between each area were especially compelling. Overall, teenagers in Baltimore and Johannesburg, despite being located in comparably wealthy countries, had far worse health outcomes and tended to perceive their communities more negatively.

Such a comparison is stunning and, in many ways, says more about Baltimore than demographic data.

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