Baltimore Neighborhoods Research Guide

Defining 'Neighborhood'

We usually think the boundaries of our neighborhood enclose the few square blocks surrounding our home, church, school, business, park or playground. However, agencies responsible for collecting, studying, and disseminating data about Baltimore City define neighborhoods quite differently. Geographic and social criteria such as community origins and history, zoning laws, economic patterns, and ethnic concentrations all provide useful information for understanding the dynamics of small areas of the city. Each of these criteria end up defining the word ‘neighborhood’ somewhat differently, and drawing different sets of boundaries.

So, it’s important to be clear about what we mean when we start to research a neighborhood in Baltimore.

Ways of Understanding a Neighborhood

Using Demographics

Here are some of the systems used to describe neighborhoods within Baltimore City, together with the agencies that collect data about the City's populations.

Neighborhood Demographic Profile: One commonly-used method for understanding a neighborhood is to review the characteristics of the people who live there, such as age, race, gender, and other social and economic factors, and then create a demographic profile of the area.

Census tracts: The United States Census Bureau uses these small, relatively permanent and homogenous subdivisions of Baltimore City as demographic building blocks. Census tracts may not fit neatly into your neighborhood's boundaries.

Community Statistical Areas (CSAs): Since most individual neighborhoods in Baltimore City do not have borders that exactly follow established census tracts, clusters of neighborhoods have been put together along census tract boundaries to form 55 CSAs.

Regional Planning Districts (RPDs): First developed in the 1970's, RPDs follow census geography boundaries and contain one or more census tracts. They are larger than most neighborhoods, but may be the right size if you need something broader to analyze.

Zip Codes:

Using Statistics

Numerical data can be used to describe living conditions in a neighborhood.

Crime Statistics

Health Statistics

Economic Statistics

Quality of Life Statistics

Plans for the Future

Using Maps

Discovering the History of a Neighborhood

The Enoch Pratt Free Library:

The Pratt Library's Maryland Department (400 Cathedral St., downtown) is a great place to visit for neighborhood history research.

The Mayor's Office of Neighborhoods:

The Office provides an interactive map of Baltimore City neighborhoods, some of which include histories and links to neighborhood associations.

Who Can I Contact for Assistance with a Neighborhood-Related Issue?

Getting Involved in my Neighborhood

Baltimore's unique and vibrant neighborhoods thrive on the work of volunteers. Volunteering is a great way to help build and strengthen your local community, learn new skills, meet new people, and have some fun as well.

Ask Us

If you would like to know more, email us through our Ask-A-Librarian service or contact us at:

Maryland Department
Enoch Pratt Free Library
Central Library, State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(410) 396-5468