Monday, October 31, 2011

Does a zip code = a neighborhood?

The Guttmacher Institute apparently thinks so. I came across this "Evidence Check" sheet (entitled "Claim that Most Abortion Clinics Are Located in Black Neighborhoods Is False") from them after reading a Time/Swampland blog post by Steven Gray.

In his post, Gray claims Herman Cain's assertion about Planned Parenthood attempting to put abortion clinics in black neighborhoods is false because a Guttmacher Institute says, "Sixty-three percent of abortion clinics are in neighborhoods where more than half the residents are white."

Ignoring Gray's obviously faulty equation between all abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, let's take a closer look at what the Guttmacher Institute (which Gray deceptively labels as "non-partisan") thinks neighborhoods are.
Neighborhood characteristics are based on information for each U.S. zip code from the 2000 decennial population census.
Maybe it's just me but I tend to think that there can be multiple neighborhoods in a zip code and that equating zip codes and neighborhoods is fallacious.

For example, one of the zip codes in the Grand Rapids area is 49506 (here's a web site which provides zip code maps). According to Zipskinny, this zip code is 73.3% white.

So by Guttmacher standards, there could be no "black neighborhoods" in this zip code, when there is a portion of this area (on the west side near Eastern and Franklin) where a majority of the residents are African-Americans.

Another example in the Grand Rapids area would be 49508. Again Zipskinny says the zip code is 74.7 white. There is an abortion clinic in this zip code, located at the corner of 32nd and Eastern. This abortion clinic is in a neighborhood which is likely predominately African-American (or at least close to it) but because the 49508 zip code includes more area which is mostly white, the zip code is also mostly white.

Instead of zip codes, maybe the Guttmacher Institute could have used county or state population information to decide whether any abortion clinics were in neighborhoods that were predominately African-American.

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