How your zip code affects your health as a Black woman

Aug. 27, 2020

Jen Laskey


It doesn’t seem right that something as seemingly arbitrary as your zip code can predict how healthy you'll be throughout your life — or how long you’ll live. Yet an increasing number of studies suggest it does. In the U.S., it may even be a better predictor than genetics, gender or lifestyle habits, especially if you’re a Black woman.

Black women in this country typically have shorter lifespans than white women. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017, suggested that the average life expectancy for white women in the U.S. was 81.2 years and for Black women — 78.5 years.

Examining data from New York University Langone Health’s City Health Dashboard in June 2019, researchers in the department of population health at NYU’s School of Medicine found that in 56 of the 500 largest cities in the country, people in certain neighborhoods are unlikely to live as long as their neighbors. In fact, in some areas in Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago, there's a good chance that residents will die 20 to 30 years earlier than their neighbors just a few miles away. And these stark changes don’t just occur from one zip code to the next. In some places, life expectancy varies from block to block, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

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