Demography In Action: Auspicious Developments

Being and Doing In Lower Manhattan

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(Editor’s Note: This is part an occasional series that will seek insights about life in Lower Manhattan by looking at statistics available from the Data2Go.NYC website, by Measure of America — a nonpartisan, non-profit project of the Brooklyn-based Social Science Research Council. This installment focuses on statistics about the American Human Development Index.)

According to a range of statistical indicators that are grouped together under the rubric of “Human Development,” the square mile at the bottom of Manhattan is endowed and exalted by advantages that few other communities in the five boroughs of New York — indeed, very few places in the United States, or the world — can match.

Since the early 1990s, social scientists have been measuring achievement and opportunity using what they call the Human Development Index (HDI). This yardstick focuses on three dimensions of measurement (health, education, and income) and allows demographers to compare well-being in various nations. In this global ranking, Norway is currently the most developed nation in the world. The United States ranks eighth in absolute terms, and 28th when the tabulations are adjusted for inequality.

But Measure for America uses a modified form of HDI, which it calls the American Human Development Index (AHDI). This measure also focuses on health, education, and income, but takes advantage of more precise statistical readings available in the United States to incorporate sharper indicators — for example, using educational achievement, rather than school enrollment.

In Lower Manhattan, all three axes of measurement are off the charts.

Viewed through the prism of educational achievement, Downtown gets an “A.” This assessment begins with a tally of how many young people (aged three through 24 years old) are currently enrolled in school. For the City as a whole, the rate is 77 percent. Locally, however, the Civic Center area boasts an enrollment rate of 93 percent, followed closely by Southern Tribeca, with a rate of 92 percent. (The eastern section of the Financial District and South Street Seaport area both lag the City overall, however, with rates of 49 percent and 67 percent, respectively.)

Throughout the five boroughs, slightly more than 18 percent of residents have never completed high school. For people who live Downtown, though, the numbers are much different, with rates lingering in the low-single digits everywhere except the Civic Center (with 12 percent) and Southbridge (with 15 percent).

The portion of New Yorkers overall who have completed high school (including those who have begun — but not completed — college) is 43 percent. But that category shrinks to the high-single and low-double digits everywhere in Lower Manhattan, mostly hovering in the teens, and breaking the 20 percent threshold in only two areas: the southern portion of the Financial District and the Southbridge Towers neighborhood.

While approximately 20 percent of New York City residents overall have completed a four-year college degree, that cohort in Lower Manhattan ranges from 33 percent (in the Financial District) to 52 percent (in the Seaport District).

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And although the proportion of New York City residents who hold a graduate or professional degree is 13 percent, in various neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan that ratio jumps to between 27 percent (in the area surrounding Southbridge Towers) and 48 percent (in northern Tribeca).

Gauging the state of Lower Manhattan in term of health yields a similar prognosis. This metric is quantified primarily in terms of life expectancy. Somebody born in Lower Manhattan today can expect to live past 85 years of age.

That is the highest anywhere in the City, and a full decade longer than residents of the Rockaways section of Queens, the Bedford-Stuyvesant community of Brooklyn, or the Corona Park East & Morrisania areas of the Bronx, can count on.

And those extra years are likely to be comfortable. Median personal income for Lower Manhattan residents is among the highest anywhere in the five boroughs, with people who live in southern Tribeca making $133,000 per year, while those in northern Battery Park City take home $119,000 per year, as their neighbors in that community’s southern section score $101,000. (For the City as a whole, that figure is slightly more than $53,000.)

All of which translates into an AHDI score of 9.1 (out of a possible ten) for Lower Manhattan. This is the highest anywhere in the five boroughs, except for the neighborhoods of Greenwich Village and SoHo (which tie Downtown by also scoring 9.1). Two other bastions of statistical privilege, the Upper East and Upper West Sides, score only 8.7 and 8.6, respectively. The three sections of Midtown Manhattan all float in the mid-eight range. And less-fortunate areas of New York bottom out with scores 3.4 (for Brownsville and Ocean Hill, in Brooklyn) and 2.6 (for the neighborhoods of Hunts Point, Longwood, Melrose, and Mott Haven, in the Bronx).

Measure of America designed the AHDI to quantify what it calls the capacity for “being and doing” — the access to opportunity that transforms lives. In both respects, Lower Manhattan seems especially blessed.

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