From the age of 19-21, I lived in the greater Baltimore area. Half the time, I was close to downtown Baltimore, the other half was spent on the outskirts of the city. While there I was able to meet many people from many different backgrounds.
For this article, I called on those people I met when I was there. This was a wide range of people, from the impoverished to the wealthy. They got back to me with their responses, here are the top 17 responses.
This is admittedly the worst item on this list (that’s why it’s number 17). This was a comment made by multiple people from those in the lower-income bracket.
While there are things to do in Baltimore, not many of them are free.
They said that there are the Baltimore aquarium and a few historical sites but you have to pay to get in them.
I have not personally been inside the Baltimore aquarium but I have heard it is one of the best aquariums in the United States.
With that being said, the fact that there aren’t many affordable attractions is a major issue for a city that has massive poverty rates. While there are some great attractions they are just simply not feasible for many within the city.
16. Cold Weather
This was another common response on this list. Winters in Baltimore can be frigid cold during the winter. It feels like the frozen tundra, especially if you haven’t always lived in the area.
If you are going to be in the city during the winter, you definitely need a big warm jacket, and hat, and gloves.
The number one thing that I struggled with on a daily basis in the city was traffic. It doesn’t matter what day or time, it can always be a struggle.
According to Census.gov, the average travel time to work in the United States is 26.9 minutes. While the average travel time to work in Baltimore is 31.4 minutes. Source
This may not seem like a huge deal but that 5 extra minutes can be a disaster in the wrong situation.
Baltimore is one of the smaller cities on the list of high amounts of traffic. This list has cities like New York City and Los Angeles, which are much bigger than Baltimore.
14. Local Government
This was another very popular response to my survey. With that being said, I am very underqualified to be talking about the city government of Baltimore.
Many cited lack of caring and high taxes as major issues with their local government.
If the people who live in your town feel like you don’t care about them, it’s a problem.
The city of Baltimore is lagging behind other cities when it comes to implementing technology and internet use.
According to Census.gov, 82.7% of households across the nation have the ability to use the internet. This is reduced to just 74.5% in the city of Baltimore. Source
This 8% makes a major difference and is indicative of the state of technology within the city. Baltimore is not a technological hub like San Francisco, so it may be a place you avoid if you center your life around technology.
12. West Baltimore is Dangerous
This was another major response to my survey questions. With that being said, a lot of the issues that put it on the list, are on the list themselves.
This entire section of the city is typically avoided and can really bring down the city.
Major problems plaguing this area are drugs, poverty, and homicide. Each of these will have its own separate entry on the list.
The bottom line is if you are trying to avoid dangerous and less than stellar places, avoid West Baltimore.
11. Cost of Living
A major reason not to move to Baltimore is the cost of living. This along with the average income in Baltimore leads to slim differences in the two.
The median household income in Baltimore is $50,379 while the national average is $62,843. Source
Obviously, the average income is significantly lower than the rest of the country. This is not helped by a high cost of living.
“Baltimore, Maryland’s cost of living is 17% higher than the national average”Source
In the end, with low average income and high cost of living, Baltimore isn’t a place where you can pinch pennies.
10. Housing Cost
Of course, nobody wants to pay way too much for housing. If you live in Baltimore you most likely have to though.
“A large portion of that cost is housing — which is 47% higher than the national average”Source
This is significant given that the average income is only $50,379. When living in a city with a high cost of living, and you have a low income, and housing is significantly higher than other cities, it can lead to major problems.
Baltimore was rated as a bottom 3 city in terms of taxes on this CNBC ranking. Source
This means they are very unfriendly when it comes to taxes all around. According to that poll linked above,
Many people that I personally know have always complained about the taxes in the area and how much they have to struggle because of them.
There are many places you can go that have much lower taxes than Baltimore county and the city of Baltimore.
8. Poor Health
There are two major issues with health in the city, and those are drugs and obesity.
Drugs will have their own spot on the list, but here we are going to talk about the overall health of Baltimore’s citizens.
According to Baltimore city health, the city is 12.5% food desert. Source
For the uninitiated, a food desert is basically an area that lacks access to affordable healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This means that 12-13% of the city does not have access to affordable healthy food.
This leads to a lot of unhealthy eating just based on necessity. This in turn leads to mass obesity in these food deserts.
As you can guess, the lack of nutritional food can lead to major issues for both the communities and the individuals within them.
Chances are, that you don’t want to move to Baltimore if you’re training for a marathon next year.
7. Income Inequality
This was a very common response to my survey and I 100,000% agree.
When I moved to the City I was struck by the multi-million dollar houses being blocks away from the ruins of old decaying buildings.
The scary part is that this inequality is split almost entirely by race.
“The median household income for a black family in Baltimore is $33,801, whereas the median household income for a white family is at $62,751”Source
There is no denying there are poor white people in Baltimore, there is also no denying that there are rich black people in Baltimore.
With that being said, you have a better chance of finding someone who does not fall into these two categories. This inequality is scary and is a major issue facing the city, especially in recent years.
Like I said before, major portions of the city have poor infrastructure and are in a very bad state.
One thing that always stuck out to me was the old abandoned warehouses that lined streets in the city.
Another major issue is the sewage within the city,
“Many areas of the city experience flooding and sewage issues when it rains because of the city’s more than 100 year old network of pipes.”Source
Major sections of the city are old and decrepit. Needing major upgrades and overhaul if they want to be improved.
5. Population Density
This is another commonly mentioned item on this list and for good reason. When I list off the numbers compared to the United States as a whole, you will think that I’m wrong. That is why I’m going to be linking the official government website that states what I’m about to say.
The national average for population per square mile is 87.4. So there are usually 87 people in every mile of land. In the city of Baltimore, that number rises to 7,671.5. Source
Obviously, the whole nation accounts for areas of land where they have more cows than people. Still, the numbers are astoundingly high compared to the national average.
This is not a place you want to go to if you want some alone time. In Baltimore everywhere you look it is crowded.
4. Terrible Public Schools
To put it simply, the conditions Baltimore’s schools face are horrible. They are frequently accosted as being in poor condition and for not providing proper support to students.
This next quote is a long one, but what it says speaks volumes to the problem.
“Based on the last six years of inspections, the Commission found that in several counties, every school was in “good” or “superior” condition. In three-quarters of Maryland counties, more than half of schools met this high standard. In Baltimore City, just 17% of the schools were found to be in “good” or “superior” condition, the lowest number in the state.”Source
The fact that the schools in Baltimore are this horrible compared to the rest of the state is a travesty. If you decide to move to Baltimore your child will most likely be attending a horrible learning environment.
I speak with such conviction on this due to the amount of conviction I received from those who I surveyed. Despite there being obviously worse issues coming up, this one elicited the most emotion.
This is especially the case with parents I talked to. The consensus is to avoid schools in Baltimore if possible.
I personally feel that these top 3 on the list are astoundingly horrible when compared to the rest of the nation.
First up is poverty. According to the U.S. Census, the average poverty rate is 10.2% while the Baltimore poverty rate is 21.2%. Source
The poverty in Baltimore is 11% higher than the national average!
The poverty and homeless population is massive in the city and is a huge issue the city is trying to address.
The fact that this is not number one on the list is scary. The bottom line is that homicides are rising at an exponential rate within the city.
While the numbers are way too high, the frightening part to many in the community is that they are rising.
From personal experience, frequent shootings and murders would happen throughout my stay there. Most nights you would hear gunshots. This may or may not be dangerous… I’ll let you decide.
1. Drug Abuse
Easily the most serious problem facing the city of Baltimore today is the abuse of heroin and opioids.
For this item on the list I wish I could just rattle off quotes showing you how bad the issue is.
I’ll start off with this one, “Baltimore has been regularly recognized as the heroin capital of the world.” Source
When they say this, they are not saying it lightly. There is a major issue with drugs in Baltimore. If you thought homicide rates in the city were high, think again.
This issue is fairly recent. In fact in 2012
“Heroin intoxication deaths increased by 66 percent in Baltimore”Source
The numbers are spiking and don’t seem to be slowing down. The issue is so bad that it is starting to spread to outlying cities.
For a portion of my stay near Baltimore, I lived in Hagerstown which is just about an hour outside of Baltimore. Heroin and opioid use are spiking there just because it is on the way to Baltimore.
The fact that the problem is so bad, that it is spreading, is very worrisome.
Baltimore is an interesting place with many issues facing the city. Most of these issues should deter you from moving there. With that being said, there are some good parts of Baltimore.
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