Study: Nearly Half of Pittsburgh's Black Children Live in 'Very Low Opportunity' Neighborhoods

Apr 7, 2015

Almost half of Pittsburgh’s black children live in neighborhoods with “very low opportunities for healthy development,” according Brandeis University’s Child Opportunity Index.

The index, compiled as part of Brandeis’ diversitydatakids.org project, uses online interactive maps to divide 100 United States metropolitan areas into five categories from “very high opportunity” to “very low opportunity,” according to Brandeis professor Dolores Acevedo-Garcia.

According to the research, neighborhoods such as Allentown, the Hill District, Carrick, Hazelwood are among the worst in Pittsburgh for raising children. Out of the 100 metropolitan areas included in the study, Pittsburgh ranked the 21st worst in terms of opportunities for black children.

Researchers measured a variety of positive and negative factors in Pittsburgh’s and other cities’ neighborhoods to judge how suitable each area was to raising children, explained Erin Hardy, the project’s research director. The 19 factors researchers studied included neighborhood income, proximity to early childhood education facilities, public parks, access to healthcare, school quality and unemployment rates.

According to the index, 48 percent of Pittsburgh’s black children and 20 percent of Hispanic children live in the city’s lowest opportunity areas, compared to only 12 percent of white children. Hardy said Pittsburgh’s low opportunity neighborhoods are not necessarily the poorest neighborhoods.

Nationally, 40 percent of black children live in the worst neighborhoods, compared to 32 percent of Hispanic children and 9 percent of white children.

Acevedo-Garcia said factors such as a large number of distinct neighborhoods and complex municipal zoning laws can lead to racial segregation in a city, which can leave minorities trapped in poor areas.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s overall population grew by 9.7 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the black population grew by 12 percent.

“The areas, the pieces of our population … that are growing are children that are facing historically pervasive and in many cases immense inequities in terms of many, many factors that influence their health and well-being,” Hardy said.

Organizations such as the Boston Medical Center and New York City’s Good Sheppard Services are using the maps to identify which children in their cities require additional attention and services.

“Maps are a really powerful tool for data like this,” Hardy said. “So we have something that’s coming out of research, it’s very complex in terms of what went into it, but we want to put it out in a way that’s very simple and digestible.”