How Racial Covenants are Tied to Life Expectancy

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Students at St. Kate’s are engaging with the WTDN in a variety of classes. Here’s how our students are thinking about the issues related to housing inequality and housing segregation. Their work demonstrates “thinking in progress”. 

How Racial Covenants are Tied to Life Expectancy 

By Darling Lee, Nejma Ahmed, and Hannah Meidl | Fall 2021  | Class: DSCI 1000 Data Visualization Class

Racial Covenants in Hennepin County

In this blog, we will be discussing how racial covenants in Hennepin County are connected to life expectancy. The graphs provided will specifically concentrate on the overlapping variables which contribute to this subject. The racial covenants in Hennepin County have greatly impacted this area of BIPOC’s. This became much more than just about barriers of living, but all aspects of life. For example, racial covenants have directly affected the life expectancy of African Americans. According to data from the CDC, as of June 2020, the average life expectancy in the United States of White Americans was 78 years, whereas this number was only 72 years for Black Americans. This can further highlight the lack of resources that impact these neighborhoods. 

At Stanford University, economist Raj Chetty conducted income data for the US Population from 1.4 billion tax records from 1999 to 2014. This information was then compared to the mortality data from the Social Security Administration’s death records. Through this, they were able to highlight that the richest Americans were more likely to have five years of longevity than those of the poor. Their data also states that males at the top  1 percent of income have a 15 year longer longevity than males at the  bottom 1 percent, while females at the top 1 percent income have 10 years longevity than females at the bottom  1 percent of income. Further providing information about the barriers contributing to life expectancy.

Figure:1.  Life Expectancy and Racial Covenants

When looking at this graph, it is clear that in the areas within covenants, people’s life expectancy is longer. We decided to look into what factors lead to people having a longer lifespan if they are in the covenants zone. We looked into job density, income, rent, homeownership, unemployment, population density, unemployment rate, and expenditures of full-time students. 

Graph #1 depicts the Hennepin County racial covenants by using red. Life Expectancy represents segments of life spans. As the color gets darker, the shorter the lifespan. People within the covenants have a longer life expectancy. 

It comes as no surprise that the rich have access to resources and life longevity, however, when data states that the rich are more likely to live 15 years longer than someone with a lower income. This is when income inequality and access to resources are at the pivot point of concern. 

 Figure :2: Low income and Racial Covenants

After depicting our last graph about life expectancy overall, the next variable is low income. Taking a closer look at our visual map, you can noticeably see that there’s a higher concentration of low-income individuals outside of the racial covenants; this is vastly showcased in the Minneapolis area. Areas with the least amount of poverty are outside of the city area, suburbs, and or countryside. The racial covenants seem to have lower rates of poverty but are not completely out of the poverty statistic in Hennepin County. 

Figure: 3. Life Expectancy, Proportion of Nonwhite Population, and Unemployment Rate

Looking into how racial covenants affect life expectancy, things to consider are the Unemployment Rate and Proportion of the Nonwhite Population. This graph looks into how life expectancy decreases as the proportion of the nonwhite population increases. As the proportion of the nonwhite population increases, the rate of unemployment from 2015 also increases. There is a clear connection between unemployment and the nonwhite population. The life expectancy is higher in nonwhite population areas. In the covenant areas, there is a clear pattern of the lower population of non-white people so that would also indicate that the their life span would be higher and the unemployment rate would be lower. The population in areas of covenants has a lower unemployment rate which also means that there are more people that have access to essentials. As unemployment decreases, more people are receiving paychecks. This means that they can regularly buy essentials to take care of themselves leading to a longer life. 

For example, when looking at .1417 of the proportion of non-white people in the population, the unemployment rate is 0.0184 and people live on average 82.50 years. When you move further to the right of the graph, following the linear trend, when there is a higher proportion of non-white people, 0.9062, the employment increases to 0.2987 and the age decreases to 73.10 years. 

Figure: 4 ​​Job Density and Racial Covenants

When taking a closer look at this map, there is a clear indication that racial covenants affect Job density. Around the covenants, the job density decreases. The environment of people truly affects life expectancy. This would imply that these areas are less occupied by business and pollution. Covenants are generally in more residential areas. It would be more likely to have fewer industrial buildings and populations in these areas. Since there is less job density in covenant areas, that means that people need to take personal transportation to work. Future generations reap the benefits of having access to transportation and renting/owning a house.  

Figure: 5  Racial Covenants and Home Ownership in Hennepin County (1910-1955)

When you look at the graph you can see how Hennepin county is affected by this restriction.  All the red areas in the map depict that those parts of Hennepin county are racially restricted. The homeownership rate of census tracts in Hennepin County is shown, in comparison to the national homeownership figure of 64%.  The lighter green areas indicate that there is higher homeownership than the dark green areas. Even though there is a lack of homeownership in Hennepin county overall, specifically the Minneapolis area, it seems that the homeownership rate is higher in areas where there are more covenants.

Figure:6 Median Household Income, Rent, and Life Expectancy

This graph focuses on the overall household income and monthly rent, as well as how they correlate to Hennepin County’s life expectancy. Based on the graph, you can see how income influences an individual’s life expectancy. When you look at the top right corner of the graph, you can see a census tract  with an approximate average income of $150k+ and an average life expectancy of up to 85 years, however, if you look at the bottom left corner of the graph, you can see that there are census tracts with an average life expectancy of only 67 years and a very limited average yearly income of less than $20k per year.

Another significant feature of this graph is the difference in rent. According to the graph, a census tract earning an average $15k per year pays an average of $600+ for rent, whilst a census tract earning an average of more than $150k per year pays an average rent of no more than $1500 .


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Graph #7: Expenditures per Full-Time Student & Hennepin Racial Covenants

The next graph we will be analyzing is the Expenditures per Full-Time Student & Hennepin Racial Covenants. The reason this graph is relevant to our topic is that it highlights the importance of the financial gap within household resources, income, and how it can contribute to life longevity. This information can also be directly correlated to our previous graph, graph #5, on Median Household Income, Rent, and Life Expectancy; which provides more context on the overall income of a household in the Hennepin county location. 

Again, the racial covenant is the data in red; with the expenditures in the heatwave visual.  Based on this graph, you can notice that there is less expenditure for students who live in areas with more  racial covenants, they fall into the low category. The highest level of expenditure for students located in Minneapolis falls into the highest category.By looking into job density, income, rent, homeownership, unemployment, population density, unemployment rate, and expenditures of full-time students, we were able to fully dive into how racial covenants still affect the life expectancy of the nonwhite population to this day. These maps work together to advocate for change in these areas and encourage policy changes that will help these areas prosper and grow as a community. There’s a clear connection that racial covenants still have lasting effects on our community, with life expectancy being one of the many variables.

Sources/Further Reading:

  2. Rodricks, Dan. Ben Carson, Donald Trump and the Old D

MN Department of Education

MN Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board

Google Maps (School addresses/zip codes) – To see a full map of the elementary schools in Hennepin County as mapped for this project, click here.