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Vital Signs 11 Provides New Data Tracking Quality of Life in Baltimore's Neighborhoods

Annual Report by Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute Uses New 'Hyperlocal' Data on What's Important to Baltimore's Neighborhoods

April 19, 2013
Contact: University Relations
Phone: 410.837.5739

After an 18-month strategic planning process, Vital Signs 11, a comprehensive statistical portrait of Baltimore and its neighborhoods, marks a new stage for reporting on "quality of life" indicators. The 11th edition of the report, published by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance—Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI), tracks more than 150 indicators, many of these new to this edition, to show those issues that are important to all of the city and its residents. These present a detailed portrait of Baltimore and how it changes annually. The report is available now on BNIA-JFI's website.

Seema D. Iyer, associate director of the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business, said that the release of Vital Signs 11 has immediate and long-term value for those who are working to improve the city.

"Vital Signs will resonate on almost every topic that is on the forefront of Baltimore's neighborhoods," Iyer said. "From vacant housing to walkability to the arts economy, we listened to and worked with communities to make data available that can help improve the quality of life in every neighborhood."

Iyer said the report makes extensive use of "hyperlocal" data not otherwise available—data that is unique to Baltimore such as the number of Enoch Pratt Free Library cardholders and crime calls for service from the Baltimore City Police Department.

"This report represents a true alliance of data providers, data users and data experts in Baltimore," Iyer said. "We developed relationships with more city and state agencies and area universities to integrate data in a way that is seamless and easily accessible to communities."

Vital Signs 11 highlights both the long-standing and now emerging issues that are important to understanding Baltimore’s unique neighborhoods. Specifically:

Understanding the Housing Market:

  • More than half of the city’s renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent.
  • Although foreclosure rates fell to its lowest level in over a decade, median sales prices of homes sold in 2011 was $100,000, a continued decline of $15,000 from 2010.
  • More than half (51 percent) of the homes sold were purchased for cash (newly introduced data point).
  • 7.8 percent of homes received a vacant house notice, but that percentage declined most in Greenmount East and Madison East End.
  • Baltimore City owns 19.7 percent of vacant properties (new data point).
  • 7.5 percent of homes are unoccupied and do not receive mail via the United States Postal Service (new data point).

Focus on Sustainability:

  • Baltimore City's Walk Score is 52.4, in the "Somewhat Walkable" category. Midtown's Walk Score is 93.2, a "walker's paradise."
  • 29.6 percent of households do not have access to a car.
  • Median daily water use is 16 cubic feet of water per day.

Benchmarking New Indicators:

  • More than three-fourths of the homicides were caused by a gun.
  • More than 7 percent of the city’s public school students switch schools at least once during the school year.
  • There are 2.3 liquor stores, 1.4 fast food stores, and 0.2 banks per 1,000 residents in 2011.
  • 54 percent of the city’s residents commute out of Baltimore to work.
  • One fourth of Baltimoreans have an active library membership with the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

In total, Vital Signs 11 is a compilation of "big data." There are more than 150 indicators for each of Baltimore's 55 community statistical areas, which translates to more than 8,000 data points in the latest edition of the study. The report is also rooted in "open data": All of the indicators from previous Vital Signs are online for anyone to access and download for use in a variety of innovative ways. BNIA-JFI is currently working with the city to upload Vital Signs data on the OpenBaltimore data portal.

Vital Signs analyzes data provided at the Community Statistical Area level. CSAs are clusters of neighborhoods organized around census tract boundaries, which are consistent statistical boundaries. Neighborhood borders don’t always fall neatly into CSAs, but CSAs represent conditions occurring within the particular neighborhoods that comprise a CSA.

BNIA-JFI began in 1998 as a partnership between the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. In 2006, BNIA joined with the University of Baltimore’s Jacob France Institute in an expansion of its capabilities. BNIA-JFI has strengthened the Vital Signs report and provided additional services and resources for those who seek data, information, and analysis about the city.

The complete Vital Signs reports, along with a separate executive summary, data, maps and other reports conducted by BNIA-JFI, are available at

Learn more about the Merrick School of Business.

The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the College of Public Affairs, the Merrick School of Business, the UB School of Law and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences.