Check out this new mapping project from Quartz, showing the average life expectancy for every zip code in the US.
The differences in life expectancy are striking, and nowhere more so than right in Saint Paul. The Quartz team found that Saint Paul’s East Rondo / Cathedral Hill area had one of the highest life expectancy gaps anywhere in the country.
You can see it for yourself here, where the life expectancy of East Rondo is 65 while next-door Summit Hill is 86.
Here’s a quote about the gap from the story, featuring yours truly trying to account for the difference.
Just to the west of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, lies one of the worst-off neighborhoods in the state. The neighborhood, which is in the eastern part of St. Paul’s Rondo area, has a life expectancy estimate of about 65 years. Over half of the tract’s nearly 1,500 residents live in poverty. Almost 50% are black, 13% are Asian, and 12% Hispanic, with the rest white or multiracial. Less than 10% of the adults have a bachelor’s degree.
But walk for just 5 minutes southeast over the I-94 highway, and you are in a very different world. In the southern part of the Historic Hill neighborhood, filled with massive Victorian houses, nearly 70% of residents have a college degree, and almost 30% have a graduate degree. Eight-five percent of the area’s almost 3,000 residents are white. The life expectancy is 86.
The two neighborhoods have long been demographically distinct. The poorer neighborhood, a part of East Rondo sometimes called Cornmeal Valley, was home to much of St. Paul’s low-income black population in the early 20th century. Many of the residents worked for the railroads as traveling porters. The wealthier Cathedral Hill neighborhood, meanwhile, was home to some of the city’s wealthiest white population. In these grand 1880s era homes, they were attracted by the short distance from the downtown area and grand views.
The neighborhoods differed, but they both once shared close-knit communities, according to the geographer Bill Lindeke, a specialist in the history of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Although Cornmeal Valley was poor, it was an area rich with institutions, like churches, social centers, and clubs.
Then came the highway.
In the 1950s, the US Department of Transportation built the I-94 freeway to connect Minneapolis and St. Paul. Although the freeway could have been built north of the city through abandoned train tracks, the government chose to build it in the center of the city, cutting right through the historically black Rondo neighborhood that contained Cornmeal Valley.
Congrats to Saint Paul for having, along with West Virginia, the highest gaps in the smallest area!