Vital Signs 14 Provides Data Tracking Quality of Life in Baltimore's Neighborhoods
Cover of VItal Signs Report

Vital Signs 14, a comprehensive statistical portrait of Baltimore and its neighborhoods, marks 14 years of continuous monitoring of community-based quality of life indicators. The latest edition of the report, published by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI), tracks more than 100 indicators that "take the pulse" of neighborhood health and vitality. The report, along with new indicators and several data visualization aides, is available now on BNIA-JFI's updated website.

Seema D. Iyer, associate director of the Jacob France Institute in the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business, said the release of Vital Signs 14 is more relevant than ever as neighborhoods try to manage change and the City of Baltimore tries to address disparities.

"Each one of the indicators on Vital Signs 14 has significant variation across Baltimore's neighborhoods," Iyer added. "For some neighborhoods, the gaps in opportunity can seem intractable. The data in Vital Signs 14 gives a quantifiable voice to local context and can help foster collaborative solutions among everyone seeking to improve the quality of life in every neighborhood."

"Vital Signs 14 provides critical data to all of us engaged in community-based work" says Scot Spencer, who serves on the BNIA-JFI steering committee and is associate director for advocacy and influence at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which sponsored the report. "These data help us track how effective our efforts are in improving outcomes for families and children in Baltimore."

Vital Signs 14 comprises a well-defined set of both long-standing and newly emerging issues that are important for understanding Baltimore’s unique neighborhoods. Highlights include:

Demand for Rental Units Increasing, Impacting Affordability:

  • Following national trends in other metropolitan areas, the percentage of renter households is increasing in Baltimore. However, rent affordability is a burden for 51.8 percent of Baltimore renter households who pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs.
  • Affordability in some neighborhoods is decreasing. For example, Canton has become the neighborhood with the highest percent of households earning $75,000 or more (61.7 percent), with a median home sales price of $275,000 and a rate of housing voucher use of only 16.3 per 1,000 rental units.
  • Between 2013 and 2014, the total number of homes sold in Baltimore City increased by 58.5 percent from 4,935 to 7,822. However, the median sales price of homes sold decreased by 14.1 percent from $147,000 to $126,325.
  • The overall supply of housing in Baltimore today greatly outnumbers current demand. Between 2013 and 2014, the percentage of homes receiving a vacant house notice in Baltimore City increased from 8.0 percent in 2013 to 8.1 percent in 2014. Also, the percent of homes no longer receiving mail from the U.S. Postal Service increased from 7.6 percent to 8.4 percent.


Overall economic conditions in Baltimore City continued a slow but gradual recovery with increases in jobs and decreases in unemployment between 2013 and 2014.

  • From 2013 to 2014, the number of jobs filled by employees in Baltimore City increased 2.7 percent, from 335,497 in 2013 to 344,588 in 2014.

New Indicators on Arts and Culture:

Vital Signs 14 includes several new indicators on activities, events, and public art installations that create spaces for community-building in every neighborhood. As Baltimore continues to diversify demographically, these opportunities for social interaction become increasingly important for neighborhood vitality and quality of life.

  • In 2014, there were 1.2 works of public art per 1,000 residents (750 works of public art total) in the City of Baltimore. Of these works, 218 were publically-funded murals.
  • In 2014, there were 1.4 events event permits requested per 1,000 residents for activities such as parades, festivals, block parties, and marathons.

In total, Vital Signs 14 is a compilation of "big data." There are more than 100 indicators for each of Baltimore's 55 community statistical areas, which translate to more than 5,000 data points in the latest edition of the study. The report is also rooted in "open data": All of the indicators, maps and report chapters from Vital Signs are freely accessible online for anyone to use in a variety of innovative ways. BNIA-JFI is currently working with city government to upload Vital Signs data on the OpenBaltimore data portal.

BNIA-JFI also hosted its annual summer workshop, Baltimore Data Day, in which community leaders, nonprofit organizations, governmental entities and civic-minded "hackers" come together to analyze the latest trends in community-based data, technology and tools, and learn how other groups are using data to support and advance constructive change

Vital Signs analyzes data provided at the Community Statistical Area level. CSAs are clusters of neighborhoods organized around census tract boundaries, which are consistent statistical boundaries. Neighborhood borders don't always fall neatly into CSAs, but CSAs represent conditions occurring within the particular neighborhoods that comprise a CSA.

BNIA-JFI began in 1998 as a partnership between the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers. In 2006, BNIA joined with the University of Baltimore's Jacob France Institute in an expansion of its capabilities. BNIA-JFI has strengthened the Vital Signs report and provided additional services and resources for those who seek data, information, and analysis about the city.

The complete Vital Signs series of reports, along with a separate executive summary, data, maps and other research by BNIA-JFI, are available at

Listen to WYPR's coverage of Vital Signs 14, including an interview with Iyer.

Read about the report in Baltimore.

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