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Study Finds Folks in Chicago’s Affluent Streeterville Live to Almost the Century Mark, While Blacks in Impoverished Englewood Don’t Live Long Enough to Collect Social Security

Illustration for article titled Study Finds Folks in Chicago’s Affluent Streeterville Live to Almost the Century Mark, While Blacks in Impoverished Englewood Don’t Live Long Enough to Collect Social Security
Photo: iStock

It’s just nine miles between Chicago’s predominantly white and wealthy Streeterville neighborhood and the predominantly black and poor Englewood in the city’s South Side, but the gulf of difference in life expectancies between the two represents the largest such gap in the nation.

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A New York University School of Medicine study has found the average lifespan for a resident of Streeterville to be 90 years, while for a resident of Englewood it is just 60 years, at least two years before people qualify to collect Social Security, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Asiaha Butler, a resident of Englewood and executive director of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, told the Tribune the findings were alarming but not surprising.

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“We’re in a concentrated area of poverty and that means there are a lot of things that really impact our quality of life,” Butler said.

Quality-of-life issues like limited access to fresh fruit and vegetables and fear of crime that makes the idea of jogging through the streets for cardiovascular health unattractive.

By contrast, Streeterville’s crime rate is far lower and there is easy access to fresh, healthy foods, compared with the easy access to liquor, cigarettes and illicit drugs that can be found in Englewood.

It is this kind of “divestment” in safe streets, good housing and the like, a factor that is also most often in play in predominantly black and Latin communities, that studies like NYU’s serve to highlight, Dr. Marc Gourevitch, chair of the Department of Population Health at NYU medical school, told the Tribune.

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“Often where there are greater concentrations in large cities of Latino or African American populations there can be neighborhoods, at times, where [there has been] more disinvestment in basic social services like education, housing, clean water, safe streets,” Gourevitch said.

Chicago also has long struggled with the intense racial segregation of its residential neighborhoods, something researchers also noted was a factor in disparities in health outcomes.

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“There’s a saying that your ZIP code has as much to do with health as your genetic code, and I think it’s data like this that really shine a light on a statement like that and bring it to life,” Gourevitch said.

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DISCUSSION

This doesn’t seem to control for death from unnatural causes. In poor neighborhoods, deaths from crime, drugs, etc. pulls down the average life expectancy. Both are tragedies and both need to be addressed.

However, as we’ve seen in school nutrition programs- simply having access to fresh foods isn’t enough, especially when orange drink is 1/3 the price of orange juice and there’s little education on how food choices can impact health.

Add to that the intergenerational elements- you eat what your parents eat and a diet that no longer matches our lifestyle- it will remain an issue.