Working To Enhance The Quality Of Life
In Baltimore And In Maryland.

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Abell Brief: Summer 2020

Abell Brief

Working To Enhance The Quality Of
Life In Baltimore And In Maryland.



Summer 2020


For decades, the Abell Foundation has partnered with countless individuals and organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life for Baltimoreans, particularly those Baltimoreans who have been historically denied access to opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic and national outcry following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have laid bare the inequity and inadequacy of so many of our systems. Our 2019 Annual Report highlights programs that are meeting the needs of Baltimore’s most vulnerable citizens, advocating for changes to structures and practices that undergird inequality, and supporting residents who are building stronger neighborhoods across our city.

We are proud to share our 2019 Annual Report.


Trends in Baltimore Neighborhoods and Homeownership

In two recent reports, we explored the impact of changing demographics on Baltimore’s neighborhoods and homeownership rates in the city looking at U.S. Census and American Community Survey data. The first report, “Drilling Down in Baltimore’s Neighborhoods: An analysis of racial/ethnic composition and income from 2000 to 2017” by urban scholar Alan Mallach, finds that the largest single factor driving neighborhood change in Baltimore is that Baltimore is losing its working- and middle-class families, but this trend plays out very differently across the city’s racial divide.

The second report, “Overcoming Barriers to Homeownership in Baltimore City” by authors Sally Scott of the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Seema Iyer of the Jacob France Institute at the University of Baltimore, examines the declining homeownership rates in Baltimore and how this trend plays out by neighborhood and race. It also looks at the current system for promoting homeownership and makes recommendations for improving it.  

Baltimore’s Digital Divide

Large numbers of Baltimore households lack two essential tools for getting online: wireline broadband service at home and access to a computer. This gap in technology has become even more urgent has COVID-19 has forced us to work, learn, and even see the doctor online. In “Baltimore’s Digital Divide: Gaps in Internet Connectivity and the Impact on Low-Income City Residents,” technology expert John B. Horrigan, Ph.D., analyses the latest data from the 2018 American Community Survey and compares Baltimore with 32 other American cities. The report finds that Baltimore lags behind most of these cities – ranking 29th for both home wireline broadband adoption and for having a laptop or desktop computer in the home. To make up for lost ground, the report offers recommendations that will help Baltimore make increased internet and computer access a reality.

Reforming Baltimore's Mayoral Elections

The current system used for Baltimore’s mayoral elections leads to several potential problems for political representation and participation: the primary can be won with a narrow plurality, the “closed” nature of the primaries means that independents and third party voters are effectively shut out, and the general election is rarely competitive. years. It is time to look at options for reforming our elections to increase competition and improve political representation. In “Reforming Baltimore’s Mayoral Elections,” written by George Washington University political scientist Christopher Warshaw, looks at the efficacy of several potential reforms that could improve the functioning of Baltimore’s mayoral elections and, potentially, other municipal elections. Warshaw analyzes national trends and academic literature ultimately concluding that the top-two primary system would likely improve the city’s voter participation and political representation.


The Economic Impact of an Eviction Right to Counsel

Typically, Baltimore has an eviction rate nearly 2.5 times the national average. Now, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic upheaval it has caused, Baltimore City is likely to face a rising wave of eviction actions with no adequate relief on the horizon. “The Economic Impact of an Eviction Right to Counsel,” from Stout Risius Ross, LLC, finds an annual investment of $5.7 million in a right to counsel for Baltimore tenants facing eviction would yield $35.6 million in benefits to Baltimore City and the state of Maryland. The report also finds that providng counsel to tenants who earn less than 50% of area media income would help nearly 6,000 households avoid disruptive displacement each year. The report was prepared for the Public Justice Center with funding from the Abell Foundation.

Baltimore College Fact Book

The Baltimore Education Research Consortium (BERC) recently published its “Baltimore College Fact Book: Data Digest of College Access Outcomes.” The Fact Book provides a detailed update on on how graduates of Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) apply to, enroll in, and graduate from colleges. For the first time, this report includes the trajectories of students who were first-time ninth graders and provides their college enrollment and degree completion information. The Abell Foundation has supported BERC’s work around college access for Baltimore City Public School students since 2007.