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The One

The Economic Geography of Services and Baltimore Unrest

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In Baltimore this morning, one of the CNN field reporters commented on the CVS store that was looted and burned. He explained it was the only prescription filling pharmacy within one mile. Last night the NAACP representatives highlighted the lack of services for many minority neighborhoods, with the implication that it was related to the unrest.

A one mile radius could include between 10,000 and 25,000 people in Baltimore. Here is what I found out about pharmacy service in Baltimore and Maryland (US Economic Census 2012 data and US Census ACS 2013 Demographic Data):

756 pharmacy stores in the state (5,938737) = 1 pharmacy per 7,855 people

381 pharmacy stores in the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD Metro Area (2,734,044) = 1 pharmacy per 7,176 people

125 pharmacy stores in the Baltimore County (823,883) = 1 pharmacy per 6,591 people

106 pharmacy stores in the City of Baltimore (622,104) = 1 pharmacy per 5,868 people

So, there appears to be a better level of service for the Baltimore urban area when compared to the entire state or metropolitan area.

While there is no established distance to population standard for pharmacy service, if you look at the population per square mile by demographic area the issue becomes more clear.

So a 1 mile radius from the CVS is 3.14 square miles:

State = 478 people per square mile x 3.14 = Average of 1,500 people within 1 mile radius

Metro = 4571 people per square mile x 3.14 = Average of 14,353 people within 1 mile radius

County = 1377 people per square mile x 3.14 = Average of 4,323 people within 1 mile radius

City = 7,689 people per square mile x 3.14 = Average of 24,143 people within 1 mile radius

So, in the City, a one mile radius includes an average 24,143 people. Yet we know there is 1 pharmacy per 5,868 people on average. This would yield 4 expected pharmacies to serve this population.

Now let's cut the radius in half, so as not to include outer areas that may be served by pharmacies within 1 mile:
City = 7689 people per square mile x 0.79 = 6074 people. 6074 people within 1/2 mile radius (exclusive service area for this pharmacy). This means you would expect to find 1.03 pharmacies in this area for the population average within 1/2 mile. This assumes there are pharmacies located about a mile North, South, East and West.....without more information it will be difficult to determine whether this specific area is indeed suffering from a lack of pharmacies.

This neighborhood is experiencing a nearly 1:1 coverage of the pharmacy service expected to be found for a similar population within the City of Baltimore.

There may be a real lack of services (it doesn't justify violence), but it does justify a discussion and further analysis.

Updated 28 Apr 2015 at 4:50 PM by The One (Additional Information)

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