Distressed Communities Experience Higher Mortality Rates, Economic Decline

The 2017 Distressed Communities Index by the Economic Innovation Group highlights the health consequences of economic disparity between communities. The report determined the economic strength of U.S. ZIP codes and counties based on residents’ educational attainment, poverty, adult unemployment, vacancy rate, median income, and the change in the number of jobs and business establishments from 2011 to 2015. Mortality rates were 25% higher in distressed counties than in prosperous ones. Mortality rates from cancer, suicide, mental and substance abuse disorders, and neonatal mortality were 27%, 52%, 64%, and 86% higher in distressed counties, respectively. These communities also suffered economic deterioration over the five-year period.

The report grouped ZIP codes and counties into five categories: distressed (bottom 20%), at-risk (2nd quintile), mid-tier (3rd quintile), comfortable (4th quintile), and prosperous (top 20%). Most minority groups were over-represented in distressed communities. Blacks and Native Americans were at least three times more likely to live in distressed communities than whites: 37.0% of blacks, 36.2% of Native Americans, 22.5% of Hispanics, and 11.7% of whites lived in distressed ZIP codes.

The report also illustrates how economic growth has not been equally shared across communities. Between 2011 and 2015, prosperous ZIP codes had average job growth of 24.5%, business establishment growth of 12.6%, a poverty rate of 6.2%, and a housing vacancy rate of 4.8%. Distressed ZIP codes had average job loss of 6.0%, business establishment loss of 6.3%, a poverty rate of 26.7%, and a housing vacancy rate of 14.4%.

Interactive maps of the Distressed Communities Index by state, county, ZIP code, and congressional district are available at: http://eig.org/dci

The 2017 Distressed Communities Index report is available at: http://bit.ly/2xstq2z