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Vital Signs 12 Provides Data Tracking Quality of Life in Baltimore's Neighborhoods

Annual Report and New Website by Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute Integrates Data to Show What's Important to City Neighborhoods

May 5, 2014
Contact: University Relations
Phone: 410.837.5739

Vital Signs 12, a comprehensive statistical portrait of Baltimore and its neighborhoods, marks a new stage for reporting on key "quality of life" indicators. The 12th edition of the report, published by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI), tracks more than 150 indicators to take the pulse of neighborhood health and vitality. The report is available now on BNIA-JFI's newly updated website, which launches today as well.

Seema D. Iyer, associate director of the Jacob France Institute in the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business, said the release of Vital Signs 12 has immediate and long-term value for those who are working to improve the city.

"Vital Signs has been continuously monitoring the quality of life in Baltimore's neighborhoods," Iyer said. "This is like the routine check-up for neighborhoods to take preventative measures if they see an indicator going in a negative trend."

Vital Signs 12 highlights a well-defined set of both long-standing and newly emerging issues that are important for understanding Baltimore's unique neighborhoods. Specifically:

Housing Market Improves, but Still Vulnerable:

  • median sales price increased in 2012 for the first time since 2006 to $135,000;
  • percentage of homes with rehabilitation permits increased to 2.6 percent;
  • new construction permits increased to 0.9 per 1,000 homes;
  • cash-based as well as distressed sales through foreclosures declined.

However:

  • the percentage of homes receiving foreclosure filing in Baltimore City increased to 1.4 percent;
  • homes with a Vacant House Notice violation rose from 7.8 percent in 2011 to 8 percent in 2012.

Economic Development is Key to Community Health:

  • When residents in many of Baltimore’s most distressed neighborhoods are asked about ways to improve quality of life, the first response is generally better access to jobs.
  • The Vital Signs indicators highlight the compounding negative effects of high unemployment and poor community health outcomes.
  • Communities in Baltimore with the highest unemployment rates, such as Upton/Druid Heights, Madison/East End and Greenmount East, are also among the top 5 communities for indicators such as low median income, low life expectancy, high violent crime, high commute times and high rates of 311 calls for dirty streets and alleys.

In total, Vital Signs 12 is a compilation of "big data." There are more than 150 indicators for each of Baltimore's 55 community statistical areas, which translate to more than 8,000 data points in the latest edition of the study. The report is also rooted in "open data": All of the indicators from previous Vital Signs are freely accessible online for anyone, including downloads for use in a variety of innovative ways.  BNIA-JFI is currently working with city government to upload Vital Signs data on the OpenBaltimore data portal.

"Vital Signs is much more than a report," Iyer added.  "It's a diverse cross-section of people and organizations accessing the data interactively online. The release of the data is just the beginning of what we all can learn together about our communities."

BNIA-JFI also hosts an annual workshop, Baltimore Data Day, in which community leaders, nonprofit organizations, governmental entities and civic-minded "hackers" come together to analyze the latest trends in community-based data, technology and tools, and learn how other groups are using data to support and advance constructive change. This year's workshop will be on July 25 at the University of Baltimore's William H. Thumel Sr. Business Center, home of the Merrick School of Business, 11 W. Mt. Royal Ave.  

Vital Signs analyzes data provided at the Community Statistical Area level. CSAs are clusters of neighborhoods organized around census tract boundaries, which are consistent statistical boundaries. Neighborhood borders don’t always fall neatly into CSAs, but CSAs represent conditions occurring within the particular neighborhoods that comprise a CSA.

BNIA-JFI began in 1998 as a partnership between the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. In 2006, BNIA joined with the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute in an expansion of its capabilities. BNIA-JFI has strengthened the Vital Signs report and provided additional services and resources for those who seek data, information, and analysis about the city.

The complete Vital Signs reports, along with a separate executive summary, data, maps and other reports conducted by BNIA-JFI, are available at www.bniajfi.org.

Learn more about the Merrick School of Business.

The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the College of Public Affairs, the Merrick School of Business, the UB School of Law and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences.