Philadelphia neighborhoods with the highest rates of poverty and the most violence also have the most stores where alcohol can be bought and carried out, according to a new study.
The study, led by the Urban Health Collaborative of Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health in partnership with the City of Philadelphia, examined the density of “off-premise alcohol outlets” in light of a recent expansion of state law that allows wine and more beer to be available in grocery stores.
The team looked at baseline data for Philadelphia from early 2016 to get a snapshot of alcohol outlets in the city before expansion kicked in from further privatization.
Citywide, the average density of alcohol outlets was 2.2 per square mile, which is much lower than many other cities. But even with fairly low density, it was evident that outlets were more prevalent in the Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods and those neighborhoods with higher percentages of black or Hispanic residents. For example, in the neighborhoods with the most residents living in poverty, the average was 3.5 per square mile versus less than two outlets per square mile in the richest neighborhoods.
In those poorer neighborhoods, there is a much higher burden of violent incidents, according to researchers. For example, in 2015 in Philadelphia, per 10,000 residents, there were 130 violent incidents in the neighborhoods with the least poverty, compared to 400 in the highest poverty neighborhoods.
And it appears that alcohol outlets make things worse. Even after taking poverty out of the equation, the team found more violent incidents where there were more alcohol outlets.
This was observed even in Philadelphia’s most advantaged neighborhoods. In advantaged neighborhoods (less than 7 percent of their population living below the federal poverty line) violent incidents per 10,000 population averaged 111 in areas with the fewest alcohol outlets, but that number increased to 168 in areas with at least six outlets per square mile (51 percent higher).