Fifty-six of America’s 500 biggest cities have major gaps in life expectancy between neighborhoods, a new study reveals.
These gaps can mean people in one neighborhood live 20 to 30 years longer than those just a mile away — and the inequalities are prevalent in cities with high levels of racial and ethnic segregation, according to New York University researchers. They said their findings should be a wake-up call for city leaders nationwide.
“Your neighborhood shouldn’t influence your odds of seeing your grandchildren grow up,” said lead researcher Dr. Marc Gourevitch, chairman of the department of population health at NYU Langone Health System.
His colleague, co-author Benjamin Spoer, said researchers have known for a while that conditions from neighborhood to neighborhood can have “profound influence” on how long and how well people live.
“But we were surprised to see just how large the gap in life expectancy can be between neighborhoods, and how strong the link was between life expectancy and segregation, across all different kinds and sizes of cities,” Spoer said in an NYU news release.
Chicago had the biggest gap in life expectancy between neighborhoods at 30.1 years. That was followed by Washington, D.C., at 27.5 years; New York City, 27.4; and New Orleans and Buffalo, N.Y., both at 25.8 years.
Scores on measures of racial and ethnic segregation in these cities were more than double the average for all 500 cities studied, the researchers found.
In New York City, for example, people living in East Harlem have an average life expectancy of 71.2 years. A few blocks away, on the affluent Upper East Side, people live to 89.9.
The nation’s lowest life expectancy gap was found just outside Indianapolis, in Fishers, Ind., a city of 92,000. Its gap was 2.4 years across neighborhoods.
Others with the smallest gaps were Cicero, Ill (4.5 years); Lynwood, Calif. (4.8); Livermore, Calif. (5.1) and Meridian, Idaho (5.3). These cities were also the least segregated, researchers said.
“Each city has its own history and challenges that influence how long its residents live,” Gourevitch said in the news release. “The data on life expectancy gaps are an invitation for city leaders to dig deeper into the conditions that influence health, to better target action to close these gaps, and ultimately to improve health for everyone.”
The investigators said these efforts can be focused on addressing systemic segregation, adding affordable housing and improving air quality.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about life expectancy.