In How Long We Live, Georgia's Urban/Rural Divide Is A Matter Of Race

Dec 18, 2018

A first-of-its-kind look at how long Americans live shows there is an urban and rural divide in the life spans of Georgians, but where you fall on that divide depends on your race.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by tthe National Center for Health Statistics and the Associated Press looks at life expectancy across census tracts, painting a neighborhood picture of how long we live. In general the urban/rural divide is only a strong predictor of life span for white Georgians. 

The worst life expectancies for Georgians are found in majority black neighborhoods in cities, places like the Houston Avenue neighborhood of Macon where people live an average of 63 years. That’s 14 years less than the national average. There the median income is just under $20,000 a year and unemployment tops 11 percent. 


MAP: Longest And Shortest Lifespans For Black Georgians

Black Life Expectancy, Top And Bottom Quartile

Map created by GPB Macon in CARTO

Where are the longest lives? The majority white Vinings area of Cobb County where people live on average to the age of 86. That's a 23 year hike over life expectancy in the Macon neighborhood. In Vinings, the median income is five times that of the Macon neighborhood, over $121,000 a year and there is slightly less than 3 percent unemployment. 

MAP: Longest And Shortest Lifespans For White Georgians

White Life Expectancy, Top And Bottom Quartile

Map created by GPB Macon in CARTO

The AP analysis found that income, education and employment tracked tightly with life span. For instance, they found that an increase of about $10,000 a year in median income translated to about an extra half year of life. Hike unemployment by 10 percentage points and a neighborhood loses about a year and a half of life expectancy. 

In general, white life expectancies in urban areas exceed national averages while across town in majority black neighborhoods in the same cities, people die a decade or more earlier. 

To see the same gulf  of life span within the white demographic, you have to leave the cities and get to the country.  Still, the shortest lives for white Georgians are an average of three years longer than the shortest lives for black Georgians.

 For all Georgians, life span was tightly correlated to things like employment, educational attainment and household income. That suggests that whites in some rural areas are struggling economically but that black communities either rural or urban are struggling as much or more.