Save the Date! Richard Rothstein to Speak at Conference on Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide


Communications Manager, For the Sake of All

We are excited to announce that For the Sake of All is partnering with the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing Opportunity Commission (EHOC) this spring to present Richard Rothstein, author of the highly acclaimed book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.

Rothstein will present the keynote address for a day-long conference on April 25 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis entitled Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide, which is also the title of a new report to be released this spring by For the Sake of All and local housing experts. The conference and report will focus on housing and segregation in St. Louis, its debilitating influence on health and opportunity, and recommendations to address pervasive segregation in the housing sector that divides the region and holds it back.

Released in May 2017, Rothstein’s The Color of Law presents a precise and exhaustive look at the laws and policies on local, state, and national levels that have contributed to persistent segregation and economic inequity in our nation. The book is an extension of The Making of Ferguson: Public Policies at the Root of its Troubles, a 2015 article on housing policy and segregation in St. Louis that Rothstein authored for the Economic Policy Institute. The article was written in the aftermath of protests responding to the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in a poor, segregated neighborhood in Ferguson.

Rothstein will present his keynote speech as part of EHOC’s annual conference. The conference will be held at the JCPenney Conference Center on the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Registration information and further details will be released soon.

The conference and numerous break-out sessions will focus on the findings of the report Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide to be released this spring by For the Sake of All in partnership with regional experts in the fields of equitable and affordable housing, law, and fair development.

Those partners include EHOC, Team TIF, Arch City Defenders, Community Builders Network of St. Louis, and others who, along with a 20-member housing workgroup, spent more than a year advising For the Sake of All on recommendations intended to break down patterns of segregation and build connections and equity in St. Louis.

One of the more disturbing research findings in the original For the Sake of All report focused on life expectancy and its connection to race and ZIP Codes. The report found that a child born in predominantly white, wealthy Clayton can expect to live 18 years longer than a child born in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood in segregated and poor North St. Louis.

The report outlines the many social determinants of health contributing to this profound gap: a lack of accessible resources such as jobs and healthy foods, segregated and underperforming schools, poor health care options, and a lack of other key services and healthy options.

For the Sake of All’s upcoming report, Segregation in St. Louis: Dismantling the Divide, will focus specifically on the region’s long history of segregated housing and its debilitating influence on health and opportunity. It will further illustrate through personal stories of St. Louisians how this legacy continues to divide our community and cause hardship among people living in our region today.

The report will conclude with recommendations that can be implemented by groups already working in these areas with the benefit of stronger community engagement and support. These recommendations will be discussed in break-out sessions and forums throughout the conference on April 25. We will post updates on the event and the report in the upcoming months.

Stay tuned by following us on Twitter @4thesakeofall.


Jennings, Normandy, and Roosevelt school health centers gain support from the Dana Brown Charitable Trust



From left to right: Daniel Watt, executive director of the Dana Brown Charitable Trust, Douglas Perry of Affinia Healthcare, Chardial Samuel of The SPOT at Jennings, Dr. Sarah Garwood of The SPOT at Jennings, Joe Miller of Wyman, and Kathleen Woods of Mercy Health Clinic at Roosevelt High School celebrate the Trust’s recent financial gift to health centers at Jennings, Normandy, and Roosevelt high schools.


Communications Manager, For the Sake of All

Earlier this year, with the help of For the Sake of All, health centers at Jennings High School, Normandy High School, and Roosevelt High School in St. Louis decided to jointly raise funds under the umbrella of sustaining school-based health centers in St. Louis.

Each health center has different medical partners and funding sources. But they recognized collaborative fundraising could reduce competition among the health centers and show donors they were unified for a greater good. This week their collaboration was richly rewarded by the Dana Brown Charitable Trust which publicly awarded $94,000 to the centers to help them operate for the next year and another $44,000 to For the Sake of All for work to expand statewide infrastructure for school-based health centers.

The health centers were recognized on Oct. 12 at SSM Health DePaul Hospital which graciously hosted members of the For the Sake of All school-based health center workgroup for a meeting and cocktail hour. Daniel Watt, executive director of the Dana Brown Charitable Trust, presented each recipient with a piggy bank to mark the financial gifts.

“These types of funding partnerships are critical for progress in St. Louis,” said Dr. Jason Purnell, director of For the Sake of All. “They alert funders and the public that groups are breaking down silos and working together for a bigger cause.”

There is more to come in St. Louis regarding school-based health centers. Two more health centers in North St. Louis County high schools will open next year.

For the Sake of All, with the leadership of consultant Marissa Paine, is further facilitating the current transition of its school-based health center workgroup into a non-profit entity named Show-Me School-Based Health Alliance of Missouri. The non-profit will provide leadership and infrastructure to support school-based health programs statewide, and is the foundation of an effort to make Missouri a full affiliate of the National School-Based Health Alliance. Stay tuned on this exciting project.


Want to learn more about school health in St. Louis? Read our Discussion Guide. And don’t miss this article by Post-Dispatch education reporter Kristen Taketa on the growth of school-based health centers in the St. Louis region.

Extra! Here’s a lighthearted but highly informative video on The Disturbing History of the Suburbs which explains the impact of our nation’s history of discriminatory housing practices.



Extra! For the Sake of All is in the news

For the Sake of All has been receiving positive attention in local and national media. Here’s a round-up of the many places people from around the country are learning about the work of For the Sake of All in St. Louis.

On Sept. 11, Director Dr. Jason Purnell wrote an opinion piece on For the Sake of All for the Huffington Post as part of its “Listen to America” tour being held around the country. Dr. Purnell wrote eloquently about how the program’s name refers to an unfinished score by Scott Joplin and the work to eliminate health inequity that still needs to be done in St. Louis, our beloved city by the river.

“If anything has become apparent to residents of St. Louis following what is known by the shorthand “Ferguson,” it is that all of us are implicated in and impacted by the inequities that have characterized our region for decades. And all of us are also necessary in addressing the multiple factors that result in an unequal distribution of health, life, and the resources that support them both,” wrote Dr. Purnell.

Dr. Purnell was also quoted in an Aug. 20 Washington Examiner Piece on the Affordable Care Act and stalled Congressional efforts to bring the social determinants of health and health equity more prominently into national public health policy.

In August, For the Sake of All and multiple community partners celebrated the opening of a school-based health center on the campus of Normandy High School, a part of For the Sake of All’s “next steps” to foster healthy schools.

Print and digital stories about Normandy’s new health center ran on Aug. 23 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and July 27 in The St. Louis American. Fox 2 News also aired an extensive story on a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center held Aug. 31 at Normandy High School. St. Louis Public Radio aired an Aug. 10 piece on student health centers in the region highlighting Normandy’s new health center, now named Affinia Healthcare at Normandy High School.

For the Sake of All was also the recent recipient of a prestigious $1.1 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to work with the Normandy Schools Collaborative and St. Louis Public Schools to develop a “toolkit” to better coordinate and implement programs that foster healthy schools.

The Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis American each published stories on the project on Aug. 9 and Sept. 6. Washington University also wrote about the project in its campus-wide digital publication, the Source.

On Sept. 10 the Post-Dispatch published an editorial praising our momentum on fostering healthy schools, noting “public education is too often a political battlefield where children’s basic needs are forgotten. For the Sake of All puts the emphasis back where it belongs.”

Washington University graduate Joe Madison, AKA The Black Eagle, interviewed Dr. Purnell on his national Sirius XM radio talk show Aug. 31 to discuss healthy schools that attend to the needs of the whole child.

“We can begin to close the gap in educational outcomes by actually attending to the issues that stand in the way of the ability to learn,” he said. “A child who can’t see, can’t hear, can’t breathe, hasn’t slept, has been traumatized doesn’t know where they are going back home to at night doesn’t have the opportunity to learn, and none of us would.

Staff has also been out in the community discussing For the Sake of All’s research and work. On Aug. 25, Dr. Purnell presented research on health inequity to a new class of Focus St. Louis Impact Fellows, a group of community leaders currently learning about the region’s health care safety net. On Aug. 31, Communications Manager Nancy Cambria presented to the St. Louis Regional Chamber on the critical importance of investing in quality early childhood programs to promote optimal brain growth and build a future labor market.

Finally, For the Sake of All is pleased to announce it has developed a concise Fact Sheet that includes information on its history, research, goals, and current work. Please share this fact sheet with anyone interested in the mission of health equity for St. Louis.

Supporters can always follow For the Sake of All on Twitter to see up-to-date posts on research, current news, and other notable items regarding health equity and progress in St. Louis. Supporters can also sign up for email notifications about new blog posts on the bottom of our website home page.



A shiny bite of hope: Partners celebrate a new health center at Normandy High School

Communications Manager, For the Sake of All

For the Sake of All doesn’t usually get the time to truly celebrate the positive work happening among our partners in the St. Louis region to solve health inequity.

But the morning of Thursday, Aug. 31st was a tremendous exception.

Nearly 100 people attended a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the recent opening of Affinia Healthcare at Normandy High School, a primary care health center located on the high school campus. So many people attended, the school opened its football field to handle the overflow in parking.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger declared it a landmark event. He issued an official proclamation for the day honoring the new health center and the partnerships that made it possible. 

The morning was truly a demonstration of school spirit and partnership. Students in the band joined their clarinets, flutes, drums and tubas to pump out music by Prince and other songs. Their peers in the high school’s culinary arts program spent the morning preparing sweet treats like banana bread and strawberry cream cups which they served to a line of eager guests. Normandy High School junior Kaviyon Calvert prepared a speech for guests.

“The center will give students the opportunity to network with trustworthy health care professionals,” he said.

The celebration was held in a large gathering space outside the health center decorated with bright murals painted by St. Louis artist Cbabi Bayoc and Normandy High students, making the space an inviting place to seek out health services.

Normandy Schools Collaborative Superintendent Dr. Charles Pearson emceed the event which highlighted the district’s partnership with four organizations that worked together to make the center possible: Affinia Healthcare is providing medical care and staffing; BJC HealthCare is donating in-kind donations, including furnishings and medical supplies; Wyman, a youth development organization, is working to integrate the health center into the everyday activities of the school district; and For the Sake of All, which is conducting critical needs assessments in schools and fostering partnerships to support and increase school-based health.

“This is about giving schools all of the tools and partnerships they need to create truly healthy schools – schools that cater to the whole child so they can be healthy and succeed,” said For the Sake of All Director Jason Purnell, one of eight speakers.

Honorary guests came from as far as Jefferson City. They included local and state elected officials, as well as Dr. Margie Vandeven, commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“It’s a really exciting thing when research and common sense just collide,” Vandeven said. “Our students will learn when their basic needs are met.”

After the speeches, all of the partners squeezed in behind the long paper banner in front of the health center – each armed with jumbo gold-handled scissors.

Affinia Healthcare President and CEO Alan Freeman gave the final count-down.

The banner was so big It took several cuts. The crowd cheered the partners long after the banner fell to the floor in pieces. The celebration continued with small tours of the health center’s two examination rooms and its waiting room and lab area.

It is not without some somber recognition that this this joyful moment took place in Michael Brown’s high school just two weeks after the anniversary of his death. In a way, Normandy’s health center and Mike Brown’s legacy are linked.

The outrage that emerged after his death in Ferguson, MO in August 2014 brought critical attention to For the Sake of All’s Report on the Health and Well-Being of African Americans in St. Louis and Why It Matters for Everyone. The research in the Report, published just four months before Brown’s death, was clear: inequity from poverty and segregation was severely harming the health and longevity of African Americans in St. Louis.

Opening more school-based health centers in high-need school districts like the new one in Normandy High School was a direct community response to this Report.

For the Sake of All’s work in school-based health is far from done. For the Sake of All is working to foster more partnerships to open two new centers in North St. Louis County by the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Work is also underway to establish Missouri as an organized affiliate of the School-Based Health Alliance, a national organization empowering the creation of effective school-based health centers. Ultimately, For the Sake of All aims to open a health center in every high-need high school in the region. 

When the party wound down at Normandy High School, red and green apples reflecting Normandy’s school colors were handed out to the crowd. As they headed to their cars, guests carried with them a symbol of the merging of health and education – and a shiny bite of hope.

Want to learn more? The ribbon-cutting was covered by Fox2 news reporter Shawndrea Thomas on Aug. 31. Reporter Kristen Taketa of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch also wrote an extensive Aug. 23 newspaper story on the growth of school-based health in St. Louis.

Photo credits: Sam Nuernberger for Wyman

The latest on school-based health: Partnership launches a health center at Normandy High School

Communications Manager, For the Sake of All

The choices were not great: attend school sick and not feeling well or spend the entire day getting to the doctor’s office to obtain treatment.

That was a decision often made by many students at Normandy High School, according to surveys, interviews, and focus groups on community health held by For the Sake of All.

With few primary care options in the 23 communities that make up the Normandy Schools Collaborative and a lack of health insurance and transportation, students in the high-need public school district were typically missing a full day of school to visit a doctor’s office or a medical clinic far away. Some students were calling in absent to take sick siblings to the doctor’s office. Or, they were just skipping the doctor altogether, gritting out symptoms at home – or while attending school.

But that is soon to change. A new health center opened on Aug. 10 at Normandy High School with full primary health care and behavioral health services offered by Affinia Healthcare.

No longer will students have to take two bus lines and MetroLink to get to health services in the Central West End as many did. Nor will they find themselves going to a hospital emergency room for routine treatment at more than double the rate of students in wealthier school districts because of a lack of nearby primary care.

“We hope that with a resource like this conveniently located on one of our campuses our families get needed health services, but also eliminate a barrier that can keep some students out of school,” said Normandy Schools Collaborative Superintendent Dr. Charles Pearson. “This collaboration can have a direct, positive impact on the entire community.”

The health center, named Affinia Healthcare at Normandy High School, is also a cause for celebration among For the Sake of All and its many partners. Last year, For the Sake of All staff and dozens of community partners identified school-based health centers as a key strategy in tackling health inequities affecting African Americans in the St. Louis region. The Normandy High School health center is the first new health center to open under this initiative.

“School-based health centers provide access to health care and preventive services where young people spend most of their waking hours—in school,” said Dr. Jason Purnell, director of For the Sake of All. “When properly implemented in schools with high needs, they result in better health and better educational outcomes. Thousands of these centers exists across the country, and we’re excited to be part of the expansion of the model here in St. Louis.”

Though there are thousands of school-based health centers in the United States, St. Louis has just a handful. For the past year, For the Sake of All has convened work groups with participants in the health, education, and student development fields to forge partnerships and establish proven steps to sustain the existing health centers and open many more.

The Normandy High School health center was made possible through a partnership formed in January between Normandy Schools Collaborative, Affinia Healthcare, BJC HealthCare, Wyman, and For the Sake of All.

Affinia health practitioners will provide the primary care. BJC will provide equipment and supplies. Wyman will work with the school district’s nurses, counselors, student development providers, and administrators to integrate the health center into the everyday culture and programming of the school. And For the Sake of All will continue to consult with the center to support its sustainability and best practices.

Two more health centers are currently in the planning stages in schools in North St. Louis County, and similar partnerships are forming to ensure those health centers are sustainable and effective. Part of that work includes making Missouri an affiliate of the School-Based Health Alliance which works to expand and sustain high-performing school health centers around the nation. That emerging organization, to be named the SHOW ME School-Based Health Alliance, is in the early planning stage.

For the Sake of All and its partners aim to build infrastructure and support to open a health center in every high-need high school in the St. Louis region.

The centers have many benefits beyond direct healthcare delivery. Research found in our Discussion Guide on healthy schools shows school-based health centers improve attendance and curb school drop-out rates. They enhance learning environments and empower students to take care of themselves. Further research shows the stress of poverty and neighborhood violence can harm child development and trigger poor health in adulthood. So getting accessible health care for students in a highly supportive setting is an important intervention.

Over the course of conversations in the high school this past year For the Sake of All also learned students and parents were having difficulty finding accessible behavioral health support for mental health issues, despite coping with many intense stresses in their homes and neighborhoods. This gap in services was concerning because a quarter of Normandy High School students surveyed by For the Sake of All reported having trouble sleeping at night, feeling sad, or worrying about the future.

Wyman, a youth development organization, is working with Affinia Healthcare to ensure the center will be highly sensitive to trauma among its young patients and will work throughout the school district to ensure students are aware of the center and have access to it. In For the Sake of All surveys, more than 85% of Normandy students, teachers, and staff said they would utilize its services.

There’s more to come in the next year in St. Louis on school-based health. Stay tuned. But for now For the Sake of All is excited students, faculty, and staff of Normandy schools have this important resource within steps of their classrooms, sports practices, clubs, and other activities.

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Check out For the Sake of All’s full Report on the health and well-being of African Americans in the St. Louis region and why it matters for everyone. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @4theSakeofAll.

Investing in our children’s futures: hope grows for Child Development Accounts

Communications Manager, For the Sake of All

Research from the Center for Social Development at Washington University suggests nine out of ten parents aspire for their children to go to college regardless of their income, their ethnicity, or where they live.

Ask Charlene Jackson of St. Louis. She firmly believes college will one day happen for her two young grandchildren, despite her lower wages.

But that dream often fades and doesn’t become a reality for low income families. Jackson, for example, said that until recently she had no plan for how to get her grandchildren through college, but was just expecting it to all work out someday.

In the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County there are critical racial disparities when it comes to African Americans going to college. Though trends are improving, only a little more than half of African Americans 25 years and older have gone on to take college level courses. That’s compared to nearly three quarters of white residents. Finances certainly are a challenge for African American families overall. More than 30% of African American households live in poverty compared to 9% of white households.

It’s important to empower African American families like the Jacksons with strategies to get their children and grandchildren to college. How can St. Louis push more children on a path to college built on a concrete plan and not just dreams?

One strategy backed intensively by For the Sake of All is the creation of Child Development Accounts that enable families to build assets targeted for children’s higher education. The creation of such accounts is also listed among the Ferguson Commission’s “Calls to Action.” For the Sake of All and its partners believe every child in the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County should be automatically enrolled in these accounts at birth. To get there, a collaborative group of partners is working on a plan to enroll 30,800 children in 20 of the region’s most high-need ZIP Codes into the Missouri MOST 529 College Savings Plan. There’s more work to be done on this venture, but momentum is building.

Research shows the accounts have positive effects for parents and children – even if assets in those accounts seem minimal or don’t approach the full cost of a college tuition. According to the SEED OK experiment conducted by the Center for Social Development, Child Development Accounts made available to a sampling of children throughout Oklahoma were found to help mothers increase expectations of their children’s education, boost mothers’ mental health, and improve children’s social-emotional development.

Several of these accounts are already in place in St. Louis. They include Beyond Housing’s Promise Accounts, which were recently highlighted in the online publication, The 74; The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis’ Future Forward program; the City of St. Louis Treasurer’s Office College Kids program; and Focus on College!, a program created by Wells Fargo and the United Way of Greater St. Louis featured in the above video. “Having money saved for college is about more than just the dollars in the account, it’s about actually instilling a sense of hope,” says For the Sake of All Director Jason Purnell in the video.

Charlene Jackson can attest to the power of Child Development Accounts. In 2015 Jackson’s grandson and granddaughter were automatically enrolled in savings accounts through the College Kids program. Jackson described the presence of the accounts as “a boost” that’s made her think more clearly about how to get her grandchildren to and through college: “They have given me the push to say, O.K., you can do this.”

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Check out For the Sake of All’s Discussion Guide on creating economic opportunity, or its full Report on the health and well-being of African Americans in the St. Louis region and why it matters for everyone.

Why early childhood programs and supports are essential to healthy brain development

By: Nancy Cambria
Communications Manager, For the Sake of All

In the snap of a finger about one million neural connections are created in the developing brains of individual newborns, infants, and toddlers. Think of each second as adding on to an amazingly intricate web of wiring that helps the brain manage the body and interact with itself and the world outside of it.

At no other time in life does the human brain experience such incredible growth than in these first three years of life. Research highlighted at Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child  demonstrates this critical brain development does not happen in a vacuum. Positive or negative human interaction shapes this developing brain architecture in profound ways.

Positive nurturing and attachments – holding children in infancy, attending lovingly to their physical and emotional needs, softly reading picture books, guiding children through imaginative play and other nurturing activities – form essential bonds between young children and adults. Those connections influence the wiring of a young child’s brain to enhance communication, learning, and positive social and emotional skills that can set a child on the right track for life.

The research also shows the brains of very young children who lack nurturing and strong adult attachments develop different wiring to deal with stress and basic survival. They may be prone to classic “fight-or-flight” responses in situations that other children find routine. It can be harder for them to focus and learn. It can impair their ability to work through a task or take mental steps to solve a problem. Their brains are wired to be on guard, so it’s just harder to trust others, like teachers and other children.

Think of the wiring of a young brain as a tree trying to branch out. Trees exposed to sunlight with ample water and nutrients without other trees blocking their sunlight develop spectacular crowns of branches and leaves. These trees can live for more than a century. But trees competing to grow in a dense forest adapt by twisting their branches to reach that one bit of sunlight to survive. They show great grit to survive. But being lopsided in shape makes them more prone to falling down in storms.

This is why For the Sake of All developed a Discussion Guide and Action Toolkit on improving early childhood development in St. Louis, particularly for children in neighborhoods and households experiencing high levels of trauma and stress from poverty. Sometimes it’s just harder for families to provide key nurturing for newborns and toddlers if they are dealing with the extreme stresses of everyday survival to sustain housing, food, and transportation.

Quality early childhood programs help develop healthier brains in babies and young children, particularly for children growing up in poverty. A network of strong prenatal care programs, home visiting programs, parenting supports and quality child care and preschool programming are valuable investments in the health of our community’s children.

Even the U.S. Federal Reserve agrees. Investing in early childhood programs for low-income children has the best return on investment in human capital than at any other time in life: $4 to $9 for every dollar spent.

Check out a recent video by The Atlantic on child brain development and stress. It refers to the early 1990s when George H.W. Bush declared “The Decade of the Brain” to prompt investment in early childhood programs. Though there’s been an increasing call for universal pre-kindergarten funding, overall progress on funding a full array of programs has been slow. Though landmark research on child development and neuroscience continues, the policies and programs to support what we know about optimal brain development in young children is still lacking – particularly for children most in need.

To learn more about how toxic stress and trauma are particularly affecting St. Louis children living in poorer, segregated neighborhoods, read the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, “The Crisis Within: How toxic stress and trauma endanger our children.” The report features solutions and a graphic that explains how early stress can adversely affect child development and health through a lifetime.

On equitable housing: impoverished neighborhoods deeply influence future health, wealth, and happiness

The legacy of America’s long history of housing segregation has resulted in “two divergent Americas, one with money and one without – and the one without is largely black,” according to this VOX report, “Living in a Poor Neighborhood Changes Everything About Your Life.”

Presented through a series of graphics, it’s a concise way to look at the highly disproportionate percentage of African Americans living in impoverished neighborhoods nationwide with slim odds for upward mobility.

The report addresses the adverse effects of long-term poverty on health, IQ, mental well-being, and educational outcomes. It cites research demonstrating low-income families with the opportunity to live in middle class neighborhoods have better outcomes regarding school performance, income, and health.

It’s similar to For the Sake of All’s video, “The Two Lives of Jasmine,” created in partnership with the Nine Network. The video illustrates the trajectory of children living in neighborhoods of opportunity versus those living in places without key resources like quality child care and schools.

Regardless of how it’s illustrated, it’s clear where families live deeply influences their future health, wealth, and sense of well-being.

For the Sake of All has created an important Discussion Guide on investing in quality neighborhoods for all in St. Louis. One of the guide’s recommendations is to develop an action plan to ensure equitable housing for all residents regardless of race or income.

This month, St. Louis experts in affordable and inclusive housing will convene to develop that regional plan. They will assess the impact of housing segregation in St. Louis and work together to facilitate better affordable housing policies and practices that stop isolating families in poverty.

Stay tuned for updates on this dynamic group as their work progresses in 2017.

“It’s dramatic.” Where you live in America could mean a lifespan difference of 20 years

Last week a landmark study in JAMA Internal Medicine analyzed county to county health data in all 50 states over a recent 34-year period. Researchers found average life expectancies varied as much as 20.1 years depending on the county where people live.

“What we found is that the gap is enormous,” one of the study’s lead researchers told NPR.

The data mirrors similar findings reported here in St. Louis through For the Sake of All, where life spans can differ by as much as 18 years in some of the region’s wealthiest and poorest neighborhoods. Read our Discussion Guide on Economic Opportunity.

In the national study, in wealthy regions with highly educated populations, such as Summit County, Colorado and Marin County, California, people lived the longest, about 87 years. In areas of high poverty and low levels of education residents had much shorter lifespans, about 67 years.

The study further suggested lifespan inequality in America is increasing between rich and poor. Between 1980 and 2014 the gap between the highest and lowest life spans increased by about two years. Researchers expect those gaps to continue to widen.

Here are the links to NPR and CNN’s coverage of the study and suspected reasons why.

Two new and notable books on wealth inequality

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City 1st Edition
by Matthew Desmond
available at


From In Evicted, Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Hailed as “wrenching and revelatory” (The Nation), “vivid and unsettling” (New York Review of Books), Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of 21st-century America’s most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

Dr. Desmond delivered the keynote address at the Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council’s recent Fair Housing Conference, held on Thursday, April 6, 2016 at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. Learn more about the conference.


The Vanishing Middle Class, Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy
By Peter Temin
available at The MIT Press

From The MIT Press: The United States is becoming a nation of rich and poor, with few families in the middle. In this book, MIT economist Peter Temin offers an illuminating way to look at the vanishing middle class. Temin argues that American history and politics, particularly slavery and its aftermath, play an important part in the widening gap between rich and poor. Temin employs a well-known, simple model of a dual economy to examine the dynamics of the rich/poor divide in America, and outlines ways to work toward greater equality so that America will no longer have one economy for the rich and one for the poor.

Many poorer Americans live in conditions resembling those of a developing country—substandard education, dilapidated housing, and few stable employment opportunities. And although almost half of black Americans are poor, most poor people are not black. Conservative white politicians still appeal to the racism of poor white voters to get support for policies that harm low-income people as a whole, casting recipients of social programs as the Other—black, Latino, not like “us.” Politicians also use mass incarceration as a tool to keep black and Latino Americans from participating fully in society. Money goes to a vast entrenched prison system rather than to education. In the dual justice system, the rich pay fines and the poor go to jail.