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walker

Life Expectancy: East Grand Rapids v Eastown

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Interesting but somewhat suspect article in the Detroit News today about how life expectancy fluctuates wildly between neighborhoods.  A lot of the article is about the Detroit area, but since this is the Grand Rapids forum and not the Detroit forum, I’m only going to concern myself with the Grand Rapids stuff:

DETROIT NEWS: life expectancy michigan neighborhoods

One of the writers is John Barnes who was a long time Mlive / Grand Rapids Press journalist, who I believe is now a freelancer and who I believe still lives around here, I think probably in Eastown.  So, I’m guessing he wrote the GR part of the story.

The article starts out stating the census tract with the highest life expectancy in the state is one that consists of part of East Grand Rapids.  Life expectancy there it says is close to 91 years (more accurately it is 90.8 years) and the least is a tract in the city of Detroit at 62 years.

Then it mentions there are great disparities between neighboring census tracts and it goes on to say that if you travel west on Wealthy and cross into Grand Rapids, in the neighboring north Eastown tract the expectancy is 17.6 years less (73.2 years.)  OK, no surprise that people that live near Reeds Lake live much longer than anyone else.  It’s so close to perfect there, it’s hard to think why anyone would ever die at all.

But then I took a closer look at the census tract map.  The north Eastown tract borders on both sides of Wealthy on the south, Fuller on the West, Fulton on north, and East Grand Rapids on the east.  Essentially it is the Wilcox Park neighborhood including Aquinas College and including what used to be the Holland Home facility that’s becoming the temporary family homeless shelter.  According to the map this is the tract where you are most likely to die the youngest in Kent County.

Huh!  Overall this Eastown tract is a pretty nice urban neighborhood.  I’d expect some of the traditional crime and poor neighborhoods to the south of this tract to be much worse off, or some rural areas, but they are not according to the map.  I didn’t take a look at their methodology but something must be throwing it off.  Aquinas College maybe, I can’t figure it out.  The next worse neighborhood in Kent County for living a long life, according to the map, is out in Cutlerville and includes Pine Rest.

Here’s the interactive map:

interactive map local life expectancy 2018

Edited by walker

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I do think that the data is biased.

Death will be attributed to the city where the death certificate is written.

East has no senior living facilities, pushing those deaths to the surrounding areas.

East also probably, has less elderly staying in their homes, most moving to facilities or to suburban areas, because of housing values.

These biases, push the age higher because those who die, die out of the city.  Those that stay, are older die with their home.

Where you die, is not where you lived.

 

The rate is often lower where there are senior facilities.  If one were to map out the facilities on top of this map you can see a correlation. 

Edited by EastownLeo

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36 minutes ago, EastownLeo said:

I do think that the data is biased.

Death will be attributed to the city where the death certificate is written.

East has no senior living facilities, pushing those deaths to the surrounding areas.

East also probably, has less elderly staying in their homes, most moving to facilities or to suburban areas, because of housing values.

These biases, push the age higher because those who die, die out of the city.  Those that stay, are older die with their home.

Where you die, is not where you lived.

 

The rate is often lower where there are senior facilities.  If one were to map out the facilities on top of this map you can see a correlation. 

Not sure I follow your logic.  People dying in a Senior Living Facility would push the average age at death higher not lower (not too many teenagers dying in a Senior Living Facility). 

Additionally, if it is based upon where the death certificate is written, then most people dying under the age of 60 would be at a hospital (exception would be people declared dead on the scene of an accident, etc.).   That would give neighborhoods with hospitals as having a substantially lower age at death than surrounding areas.   

Note: if this is how the census tracks these numbers, then it is flawed.

Edited by Sparty97

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Weird.  The narrative of the side-by-side census tracts (Eastown v. EGR) really isn't supported by the data in the map.  The economic disparity angle doesn't explain how Eastown could be such an outlier in life expectancy - the median income, unemployment rate, and education are all very high for tracts in Grand Rapids city limits. While the numbers are low compared to EGR, they are among the highest for City of GR.  It's apparently also the least diverse tract in the city limits, according to the map (if I know my city limits correctly - I may be wrong).

Also, not to nitpick, but the article uses Wealthy Street Bakery patrons as sample GR residents - but that's in a separate census tract with a higher life expectancy (80 years) and not really in Eastown.  Do those patrons live in Eastown or don't they?

Overall I wouldn't say the article is wrong - I mean, the map broadly shows brown over GR city limits and northern Wyoming, and dark green in EGR, and that should surprise nobody familiar with our community.  I actually thought that article segment was a well-written and vivid profile of the people and neighborhoods along Wealthy.  Just weird to see the Eastown tract used as the example, and it seems to be more of an outlier that needs to be accounted for than a part of the overall trend.

Edited by RegalTDP

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I don't think it's any secret that the more you make, the more able you are to prolong your life with quality healthcare, healthy diet, clean environment, etc. EGR and Forest Hills are the top rung of the West Michigan economic ladder. Their average length of life is likely going to be high.

In regards to where the death certificate is written...I'm not sure if that is what is used. Some people that live in assisted living maintain their homes. I would think that the assisted living facility would only count as their census location if their primary residence was sold and the facility becomes their primary residence. Either way, that wouldn't drive down the average life expectancy in the area of the facility. It's typically not 70 year olds that are moving into them. 

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