NAACP and Brookings publish the Black Progress Index, a first-of-its-kind analysis of Black life expectancy in U.S. counties and metro areas
Washington, D.C. — New landmark data analysis of U.S. counties and metro areas, the Black Progress Index, an interactive dashboard that examines the impact of social and neighborhood conditions on life expectancy in cities and counties across the country. The new data tool is an analysis of the places where Black people are thriving most, as measured through their life expectancy, and is intended to support understanding the well-being of Black people and the conditions that surround their lives.
In the spirit of NAACP Co-Founder W.E.B. Du Bois’ novel use of data to identify racial inequity, the Black Progress Index focuses on life expectancy and the “social determinants of health” — such as homeownership rate, education attainment, business ownership rate, and air pollution — to help provide insight into the local civic actions that can improve life expectancy outcomes.
The primary goal of the Black Progress Index, generated through a partnership between The Brookings Institution and the NAACP, is to find places where Black health is thriving despite the neighborhood conditions residents face. The Index’s data uncovers vast gulfs in Black life expectancy across the U.S. In Manassas Park, Va. and Weld County, Colo., for example, the mean life expectancy for Black residents is 96 — a national high. Yet in Jefferson County, Ohio, the average Black person lives 33 fewer years. That gap is roughly equivalent to 100 years of progress in living standards, medical science, and public health.
The top performing counties across the 13 indicators that compose the Black Progress Index include Cumberland County in the Portland, Maine metro area; Loudon, Fairfax, Prince William, and Montgomery counties, all outside of Washington, D.C.; Collier County in the Naples, Fla. metro area; Rockingham County, NH, outside of Boston, and Snohomish County, WA near Seattle. The Black Progress Index — with 13 variables chosen through a rigorous process of machine-learning and expert judgment — can explain over half of the variation in Black life expectancy across counties.
The Index will evolve over the course of the NAACP-Brookings partnership, and is part of a growing catalogue of tools and resources that will empower communities with data and information. The partnership draws on NAACP’s and Brookings’ renewed commitment to improve the lives of Black-majority cities and the people who inhabit them.
“We are proud to work so closely alongside the NAACP on a vision for success in Black communities,” said Amy Liu, Interim President of The Brookings Institution. “Through the Black Progress Index, NAACP and Brookings will help local partners and community members act on predictors of Black life success, rather than further define the problems. This will ensure our partnership helps motivate tailored solutions that better support Black communities throughout the nation.”
“Data and research must be at the core of any strategy designed to make an impact – it is foundational and necessary for success in civic engagement,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “This crucial work and deep understanding is why the NAACP continues to create change that is meaningful and sustainable for the people we serve. Through our partnership with the Brookings Institute, we are diving into the most pressing issues — from education, pollution, heath, wealth, and poverty — to better understand the intricacies and challenges Black Americans face. As we continue our grassroots organizing and mobilization of resources across all 50 states, this knowledge will serve as an invaluable tool to inform our work and ensure we are improving outcomes for our communities.”
“The primary goal of this tool is to empower local leaders with information to excite civic action,” said Brookings Metro Senior Fellow Andre M. Perry, who leads research products produced by the partnership. “Research from the Black Progress Index will provide insights into the most impactful conditions that affect their quality of life and give communities goals and benchmarks to track their advancements.”
About NAACP Empowerment Programs
NAACP Empowerment Programs is the 501(c)(3) charitable entity of the NAACP with a primary focus on training, education, and advocacy. NAACP Empowerment Programs is working to build inclusive criminal justice policies, healthcare systems, economies, and classrooms in 2022 and beyond. To learn more, visit naacp.org/empowerment-programs.
About Brookings Metro
The Brookings Institution is committed to quality, independence, and impact. Brookings Metro collaborates with local leaders to transform original research insights into policy and practical solutions that scale nationally. To learn more, please visit brookings.edu/metro. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/brookingsmetro.
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