R.I. Life Index marks lowest score since 2019

PROVIDENCE – Earning a 58 this year, Rhode Island recorded its lowest R.I. Life Index score yet since the survey began in 2019, Blue Cross & Blue of Rhode Island announced Wednesday.

The index, which measures how Rhode Islanders feel about several health and social issues, is conducted in partnership with Brown University School of Public Health and based on a survey of Ocean State residents.

In total, 2,317 surveys were completed by randomly selected adults in English and Spanish over the phone or online with an oversample of Black and Latinx residents. Also, to ensure those who do not speak English at home are represented, 582 interviews were conducted by community based organizations in 16 different languages.

“There are real challenges facing the people of Rhode Island and this survey provides a roadmap to reducing inequities and improving the health and quality of life for the people in the Ocean State, especially for those struggling the most,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health in a news release. “The RI Life Index is providing critical information on the real-life experiences of Rhode Islanders, information we can all use to build healthier, more equitable communities for all.”

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Respondents were asked about a variety of topics including access to affordable housing, education, jobs, medical care, senior programs, transportation, cost of living as well as quality of food. The index is based on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing a perfect score. Responses were broken down by age, ethnicity and race as well as core and non-core cities. Core cities included Central Falls, Pawtucket, Providence and Woonsocket and are identified as those with the highest amount of children living below the federal poverty level.

“The RI Life Index reflects the reality of the people of Rhode Island and unfortunately the data show that experience is getting harder for some, particularly for underserved communities,” said BCBSRI CEO and President Martha L. Wofford. “The Index provides shared understanding so that we can have a shared agenda on how to address the gaps. We’re grateful to the RI Life Index Coalition members who are working hard to address the gaps and making collective progress in areas like affordable housing policy. And we’re grateful to those who participated in the survey and to the community organizations that joined with us to ensure that the voices of diverse Rhode Island communities are heard.”

At 23, Cost of living was the lowest score received this year. This means that more than three-quarters of Rhode Islanders surveyed felt cost of living was out of reach. While respondents of all demographic groups reported challenges with cost of living, Black Rhode Islanders living in core cities scored the lowest. The values within this demographic group was 16 for those 55 and older and 18 for those under the age of 55.

Along with this, as housing prices reached record highs this year. More than two-thirds of Rhode Islanders were concerned with access to affordable housing with the category scoring a 32 this year. Since 2020, when it scored a 44, the category’s scores have continued to fall. 

Other individual index values:

  • Food Security scored the highest for the second year in a row with an 81, including a 73 in core cities and 84 in non-core cities
  • Racial Equity: Remained the same as last year with a value of 73, including a 69 core city score and a score of 74 in non-core cities.
  • Services for Children: 71, including a score of 62 in core cities and 75 in noncore cities.
  • Health care access: 67, including a score of 64 in core cities and 68 in non-core cities.
  • Community Life: 66, including a score of 59 in core cities and 68 in non-core cities.
  • Access to nutritious food: 66, including a score of 59 in core cities and 68 in non-core cities. This is down from a 73 in 2019 the category has recorded the largest decline since the Index started.
  • Services for Older Adults: 64, including a score of 62 in core cities and 65 in non-core cities.
  • Economic Situation and jobs: Unchanged from 2022 at a 59, including a score of 53 in core cities and 62 in non-core cities.
  • Job Opportunities: 55, including a score of 50 in core cities and 57 in non-core cities.

Katie Castellani is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Castellani@PBN.com.