On the Post-Dispatch, and Our City's Demographics
This week marks the early retirement of dozens of long-time staffers at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Among them is Betty Cuniberti, who reflects on the changing environment of the newspaper biz in her final column today.
Many of the folks retiring have written good stuff, and many have decades of experience there. It's a shame, but I can't blame them for taking such a lucrative offer.
I suspect union-busting is the aim of Lee Enterprises in making these cuts. Once the old-timers are gone, it'll be easier to kill the St. Louis Newspaper Guild. Suburban Journals reporters are still not union-represented.
Anyway, a prominently-placed article in today's P-D annoyed me a little bit.
"Blacks in three ZIP codes have poorest health, worst care" notes that, not surprisingly, low-income mostly African-American areas like the 63106, 63107 and 63113 ZIP codes on the near Northside have poor access to health care and poor health.
Then, it briefly notes that "[City of St. Louis Health Department, Bureau of Family, School & Community Health chief Bill] Dotson said that among other ZIP codes showing poor health rankings is 63118, an area generally east and southeast of Tower Grove Park, which has a growing immigrant population."
Huh? It may be what Mr. Dotson said, I don't know. While that simplistic analysis may have been accurate 15 or 20 years ago, it's not so accurate today.
It would be way more accurate to say 63118 is a majority African-American area. 52.1% according to 2000 Census figures. The area also has a large, constantly changing immigrant population. 63118 has a high incidence of childhood lead poisoning, among other indicators.
While the P-D article does not identify the document referenced, it is most likely the update to "Public Health: Understanding Our Needs" produced by Louise Quesada and her staff at the Health Department in November 2004 - almost a year ago.
I agree that our high-poverty, heavily African-American neighborhoods need special attention in improving health care delivery and outcomes.
However, I also recognize that such communities now exist both in North St. Louis and South St. Louis.
If you want to find an area with a growing immigrant population, try 63123 - Affton - or even 63129 - Oakville. Bosnian families are moving to those areas in droves, exiting the Bevo neighborhood and environs.
At the same time, newer immigrant groups are moving into Bevo, Dutchtown, Tower Grove, etc. - Hispanics, African refugees, Afghanis, etc. While some may take up residence in 63118 for a while at first, many move on to 63116 (called a mostly white, healthy area in the article), or even out to the county or at least west of Kingshighway.
63118 ZIP code has many of the same problems as North St. Louis neighborhoods. The difference is the population density is higher in 63118 than in most of the Northside, which has experienced dramatic population decline over the past 20 years. And 63118 is experiencing something of a gentrification squeeze, which seems to be pushing poor people out of parts of Tower Grove East and Benton Park, mostly into Benton Park West and Gravois Park, already pretty high-poverty areas.
Thus, some might argue that public health and social services are needed even more in 63118, and some of the nearby areas of 63111, 63116 and 63104, than in North City.
But, I would argue that every area that has concentrated poverty needs better services.
No matter what the mayor says, a rising tide does not lift all boats.
Maybe, just maybe, last week's shift in control of the four public health centers in the City from ConnectCare to Grace Hill and Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive will be a good thing. I sure hope so.
For fun, I took a look at how well I myself represent 63118. Needless to say, I'm kind of an outlier. (Please note that during Census 2000, I did not live here; I took the Census while living in an UMSL dorm in the Village of Bel-Nor. But I have lived in 63118 since early 2001.)
My personal characteristics in relation to 63118:
Speak English only: 87.7%
Moved in last 5 years: 65%
Age 25-34: 16.1%
Married Couple w/no kids: 11.5%
Lived in Same State, Different County in 1995: 9.7%
Education and Work:
In Labor Force and Employed: 48.3%
Management, professional and related occupations: 21.8%
HH Income $25,000 - $35,000: 15.9%
Public Transportation to work: 15.1%
Employed in Education: 5.5%
Ed. Attainment - Masters: 2.5%
Built Before 1940: 67.9%
2 to 4 Family Building: 59.9%
Owner Occupied: 37.3%
Value $50,000 - $99,999: 34.9%
While I'm certainly not the only married white male 25-34 year old with no kids, who works in education and has a master's degree, takes public transit to work, and owns a 2-family home priced just over $50,000, in 63118, there probably aren't a lot of others like me. And that's just fine with me!