Human Characteristics of Southeast Florida

Who We Are

Workforce Issues

Safety Issues

Annual Crime Rates (1988-1992) per 100,000 population

How We Live

Who We Are

Revitalization efforts cannot be targeted solely at physical infrastructure; Southeast Florida's human resources require investment as well. The vision of "Eastward Ho!" includes the creation of higher wage jobs for individuals within the study area. In an increasingly global economy, where business is as likely to be conducted over the Internet from home as in a traditional office, Southeast Florida must continue to develop a work force ready for the challenges of the next century.

In general, when compared to the region as a whole, the Eastward Ho! study area has lower projected growth rates, a proportionately larger minority population, lower levels of educational attainment, higher unemployment levels, lower income levels, a higher proportion of the population living in poverty, lower home ownership rates and older housing stock. Population and housing characteristics vary by county with Dade at one extreme and Palm Beach at the other. The population in Dade is younger, has lower incomes and more people living in poverty, has lower levels of educational attainment, lower housing ownership rates and a larger proportion of older housing units. By contrast, the population in the Palm Beach County study area is generally older, has higher income levels and fewer people living in poverty, has higher levels of educational attainment, higher housing ownership rates, and a very small proportion of older housing units. Broward County falls in between these extremes on most criteria.

Both inside the Eastward Ho! study area and in each county as a whole, the proportion of the population not in the labor force was higher in Palm Beach County than in Broward and Dade Counties. Unemployment, on the other hand in 1990, was higher in the study area, 7.6%, than in the counties as a whole, 6.4%. Unemployment was highest in Dade County, 9%, and lowest in Palm Beach County, 6%.

In 1990, more than 300,000 residents, 17%, of the study area were of school age, 5 to 18 years old, and 325,000, 18%, were elderly 65 years or over. These proportions are comparable to the age distribution of the overall population of Southeast Florida. However, nearly 19% of Dade County residents are of school age compared to 14% of Palm Beach County residents. At the other end of the spectrum, only 15% of Dade's study area population were 65 years or over, while 23% of Palm Beach County's were elderly. Broward County was close to the average in each case.

In 1990, the study area had a lower proportion of Whites, 68%, and a higher proportion of Blacks, 27%, than the region as a whole which is 78% and 17%, respectively.

In 1995, almost half of the Eastward Ho! study area's population resided in Dade County. Currently, Dade projects rapid growth through the year 2015, adding nearly one million new residents and accounting for more than half of Southeast Florida's overall population growth.

While Southeast Florida's median age remains higher than that of the United States, fewer older Americans are choosing to retire here. Official state projections through the year 2010 indicate that the overall percentage of Southeast Florida's 65 or older population will decline.

More than one in three residents 25 years or older in 1990 did not have a high school diploma. A total of 475,000 study area residents in 1990, 38%, had attended college, and 71,000 had graduate or professional degrees.

Current trends indicate that international migration will continue to be sizable in the future, and will increasingly affect Broward and Palm Beach. Southeast Florida's Hispanic population could rise to 34% of the total region's population by 2020, with Black non-Hispanics increasing to 20%, making minority populations a majority in the overall region.

In 1989, residents in the study area had significantly higher poverty rates, 18.3%, than in the region as a whole, 13.7%. Poverty rates in Dade County, both in the study area, 22.4%, and in the county as a whole, 17.9%, were almost double the corresponding rates in Palm Beach County, 11.8% and 9.3%. Broward County fell in the middle of the range with poverty rates of 15.3% and 10.2%, respectively.

Workforce Issues

When we look at who we are we must then see who we can be. Job growth is essential to our present and future. The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce states that the bio-medical industry is projected to be a national job growth industry. This industry currently has a significant share of South Florida's labor force. Specific examples include research, development and manufacturing of medical and dental instruments (including x-ray, electromedical and electrotherapeutic equipment), pharmaceutical products and the emerging industry of bio-technology. Bio-medical jobs pay "above average" wages and are able to sustain a growing pool of entry level jobs.

Other high growth industries include general service, tourism, film & entertainment, manufacturing, financial services, information technology, international commerce and trade. All of these industries currently have a strong foothold in Southeast Florida.

Through the Florida Enterprise Zone Program, businesses can receive tax credits for a percentage of the salaries paid to new employees, as well as refunds for sales taxes paid on building materials for property improvement. Widespread use of these options alone could diminish the problems of high unemployment, slum and blight and economic disinvestment. Private sector development of projects within enterprise zones can make this vision of job creation a reality.

Integration of specific training programs into welfare reform will also help foster job growth. These training programs will target the unemployed and underemployed in pockets of poverty within the study area. When discouraged job seekers are able to receive needed training, they will have more marketable skills. Because today's knowledge-based jobs require that workers continually update their skills, providing accessible and affordable opportunities to learn may be one of the fundamental components of a sustainable community. Even with training opportunities, the lack of other support services may make the move from public assistance to full-time work with a living wage difficult. One of the obstacles to full-time employment is the lack of affordable, convenient daycare.

Safety Issues

Demographic data for the study area describing labor force characteristics, per capita income, household income, rent and household crowding seem to imply an environment that is conducive to higher rates of criminal activity. Many local governments are implementing site design principles directed at crime prevention. Other efforts are being made by the numerous citizen-based crime watch organizations throughout Southeast Florida.

Because communities must be designed, built, and perceived as safe and secure places to live, both the prevention of actual crime and improvements to perceived levels of security are essential. Successful redevelopment and infill development will not occur in a high crime environment. Depictions of graphic violence occurring in urban areas pervade movies, television programs, and newspaper headlines daily in the U.S. Southeast Florida is no exception to national concerns about crime. Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties are among those Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) with the highest crime rates in the U.S. Of the 318 MSAs in the country, Southeast Florida's three are in the top 10% of the risk of crime per 100,000 persons, with Dade County residents the most vulnerable.

Annual Crime Rates (1988-1992) per 100,000 population by Metropolitan Statistical Area
Crime Broward Dade Palm Beach U.S. Metro
VIOLENT 772 1798 861 450
PROPERTY 7710 10901 8774 5270
RANK 22 1 9 ---
Source: U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States.

Generally, the rate of criminal activity throughout the region was higher than the average for a metropolitan area in the U.S. The murder rate in Dade County was three times the national average. The rate of auto theft, the most expensive property crime after arson, was twice the national average in Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and four and a half times the national average in Dade County.

The good news is that criminal activity in the largest cities of the region is declining. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has consistently reported a decrease in criminal behavior, particularly violent crime, throughout the country since 1992.

Social scientists and criminologists wrestle with the factors which can lead a person to criminal behavior. The vast majority of victims know their assailant, and murder victims are usually related to these assailants. Socio-economic conditions such as poverty, lack of education, unemployment, and a lack of positive role models, can exacerbate criminal tendencies.

The general population perceives that central city areas, whose residents are more likely to live under difficult socio-economic conditions, provide fewer safe opportunities for investment in residential property. This belief is manifested in decades of institutional and individual investment decisions about the location of hazardous materials facilities, redlining, and abandoning older neighborhoods for the suburbs. Cumulatively, these decisions reduce the opportunities for employment and education that are most needed in these neighborhoods, reinforcing the effects of poverty and despair that, in turn, can contribute to criminal activity.

There are neighborhoods in the urban core of Southeast Florida that continue to thrive despite negative perceptions about the people living there. These neighborhoods possess characteristics that help to neutralize the effects of nearby criminal activity: strong social institutions, unique architectural character or amenities, and a well-defined sense of community that fosters feelings of responsibility and obligation among its residents. Amenities and design elements that contribute to community building must be considered in the redevelopment of the urban core.

Redevelopment in the Eastward Ho! study area affords opportunities to enhance the lives of the area's existing residents while providing sustainable neighborhoods for the region's new residents to call home. Crime prevention through environmental design is a concept which, by creating defensible space visible to neighbors, reduces opportunities for criminal activity. Likewise, instituting community policing and community watch organizations have been shown to reduce opportunities for criminal activity by strengthening the social fabric of neighborhoods. A number of police departments in the study area are successfully implementing these techniques.

How We Live

The economic impact of renters and owners is significant throughout all of Southeast Florida. Analysis of 1990 Census data reveals that rental units were more common in the study area than in the three counties overall. There were 33% more owners than renters in the study area, but 70% more owners than renters in the region as a whole.

Older neighborhoods in the study area that have maintained value over the years tend to be mostly owner-occupied, while those that have deteriorated are now more likely to be primarily renter-occupied units. This high proportion of older units presents opportunities for redevelopment options ranging from renovation and adaptive reuse to completely new construction.

As of 1990, the proportion of housing built before 1950 was larger in the Eastward Ho! study area than in Southeast Florida as a whole. The Broward County study area had the lowest proportion of older units, 6%, while the Dade County study area had the highest, 19%. Nearly 100,000 housing units in the Eastward Ho! study area were more than 40 years old in 1990, 65,000 of which are located in Dade County. Over 180,000 housing units in the study area were at least 30 years old.

The availability of affordable housing is another long-standing concern in Southeast Florida. A large percentage of households in the region with annual incomes under $35,000 face a major housing cost burden. Under federal standards, spending 30% or more of household income on housing constitutes a major burden. For these households in 1989, the proportion of both owners and renters who faced a major housing cost burden was slightly lower in the study area (owners = 45%, renters = 62%) than in the region as a whole (owners = 50%, renters = 64%).

Local governments identify and plan for future housing needs. For example, the City of West Palm Beach projects that approximately 7,900 additional single-family units, requiring 748 acres of land, will be needed by the year 2000. In addition, a total of 123 acres of land will be required for future multi-family development. Much of this development is expected to occur in the western areas of the City. This westward bias toward development can be found throughout Southeast Florida. Without countervailing incentives to encourage continued development and redevelopment in the historic urban core, the result of such continued westward development can be slum and blight conditions in the inner city.

[ The Council | What's New | Related Web Sites | Our Region | Current Issues ]


This page and all contents prepared by the South Florida Regional Planning Council.
Updated on Jan. 10, 1997