6 Shocking Facts About Poverty in Baltimore

April 28th 2015

As citizens of Baltimore join together to clean-up remnants of this week's unrest, many are highlighting the big issue underlying what's happened in the city: desperate poverty. 

Baltimore Orioles COO John Angelos released an impassioned Twitter essay, which discussed the loss of manufacturing jobs in Baltimore and the plight of the city:

We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S...And while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

President Obama also addressed the deeper issues during a Tuesday press conference:

"In those environments, if we think that we're just going to send the send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there, without as a nation and a society saying what can we do, too, to change those communities, to help uplift those communities, and give those kids opportunities, we're not going to solve this problem. And we'll go through the same cycles of periodic conflict with police and communities and the occasional riots in the streets. And everybody will feign concern until it goes away and then go about our business as usual."

Here are some startling facts about the degree of poverty in Baltimore:

Kids riding MTALars Plougmann -

1. 84 percent of Baltimore public school students are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price school lunch.

According to the Baltimore City Public Schools website, 84 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches. On Tuesday following the riots, schools were closed, which sparked concern in the community because so many students depend on school for food. The #BaltimoreLunch movement tried to fill the gap by feeding students.

A Neighborhood in Baltimore U.S. Dept. of Agriculture -

2. Baltimore teenagers feel worse about their circumstances than their peers in New Delhi and Ibadan, Nigeria.

In 2014, Johns Hopkins University, which is located in Baltimore, conducted the a Well-Being of Adolescents in Vulnerable Environments Study. The study's researchers interviewed 2,400 teens, ages 15 to 19, in New Delhi, Johannesburg, Shanghai, and Ibadan, Nigeria. The study found that teens in Johannesburg and Baltimore felt the worst about their current situation. "It is worth noting that in spite of its location in a high-income country, the Baltimore neighborhood had some of the lowest ratings," the study read. "In contrast, Ibadan with its high ratings is located in a lower middle-income country with substantially fewer resources."

"The surprisingly similar levels of social capital across sites underscores how the structural constraints of urban poverty and exclusion from the mainstream global economy can have a similar impact on the social resources that young people depend on as sources of resilience across a diverse set of vulnerable environments," the study continued.

The Hopkins study also found that 50 percent of young women in Baltimore reported a pregnancy. In terms of overall health, teens from Baltimore and Johannesburg "appear to experience the most severe health consequences with high rates of mental health problems, substance use, sexual experience and pregnancy, and sexual violence."

  A march from Baltimore to DC in 2013 to protest poverty, low wages, and to fight for worker's rights.SocialJusticeSeeker812 -

3. Almost a quarter of Baltimore residents live below the poverty line.

Poverty rates have long plagued Baltimore; the time period of 1970 to 2010 was tracked by City Report's "Lost in Place" study.

"Our dashboard for Baltimore shows that the number of high poverty neighborhoods in Baltimore increased from 38 in 1970 to 55 in 2010," City Report writes. "And high poverty neighborhoods have hemorrhaged population. Only one census tract in Baltimore saw its poverty rate fall from above 30 percent in 1970 to less than 15 percent in 2010."

The 2009-2013 U.S. Census report found that 23.8 percent of the population live under the poverty line, and according to City-Data, in 2009, 29.4 percent of children were living below the poverty line.

4. Baltimore is one of the top cities to receive food stamps.

A Business Insider article listed Baltimore as one of the top cities to rely on SNAP (food stamps), according to U.S. Census Data between 2007 and 2009. In the city itself, excluding Baltimore County, 24 percent of residents were using SNAP benefits and 42 percent of children were on SNAP.

West Baltimore

5. In Freddie Gray's neighborhood, 51.8 percent of the residents were unemployed between 2008 and 2012, and the median income was $24,006 per year.

Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old man whose death in police custody triggered the unrest, was from Sandtown-Winchester in Baltimore​. A February 2015 report from the Justice Policy Institute points out the high levels of poverty and unemployment in the area. Between 2008 and 2012, 51.8 percent of those ages 16-64 were unemployed. The median income for those same years was $24,006, which is under the federal poverty level for a family of four. In addition to the high poverty levels, one-third of the buildings in this area are vacant.

This is just a small cross-section of Baltimore, but it demonstrates a level of poverty, lack of economic opportunity, and high levels of migration out of the city, which added to tensions in the city.

Vacant Buildings BaltimoreFriends of West Baltimore -

6. Between the years of 1950 and 1995, the city, which used to be a hub for the steel industry lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs.

As Angelos points out in his Twitter essay, the loss of manufacturing jobs has had a major impact on the city, one that ThinkProgress explains that Baltimore has never really recovered from. Between the years of 1950 and 1995, the city, which used to be a hub for the steel industry lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs. ThinkProgress reports that overall Baltimore has an 8.4 percent unemployment rate, but that the number is even higher for Black males.

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