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Design for Life

How architecture can alleviate the health consequences of racism

Kimberly Dowdell

Chicago, where I live, has the greatest gap in life expectancy of any U.S. city. The average person living along the “Magnificent Mile” in the wealthy, predominantly White neighborhood of Streeterville can expect to live to the age of 90. Just nine miles to the south, a person living in the predominantly Black neighborhood of Englewood can expect to live to just 60. There should not be a life expectancy gap of this magnitude between any group of humans anywhere in the world. One of the many questions that emerges from these statistics is how did this happen? The other is how do we fix it?

Unfortunately, Chicago is not all that unique when it comes to U.S. cities with major discrepancies in life expectancy. Washington, D.C., New York, San Francisco and New Orleans - indeed just about every major American city - all have dramatic gaps in mortality based simply on...

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