Study Shows Worse Health Outcomes in Redlined Neighborhoods

November 20, 2020

National Community Reinvestment Coalition

Lower-income and minority neighborhoods that were intentionally cut off from lending and investment decades ago today suffer not only from reduced wealth and greater poverty, but from lower life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic diseases that are risk factors for poor outcomes from COVID-19, a new study shows.

The study adds to the growing body of evidence that many of today’s most economically struggling neighborhoods in urban areas are the same places that experienced intentional, systematic segregation and lending discrimination in the past. The National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) with researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab compared 1930’s maps of government-sanctioned lending discrimination zones with current census and public health data.

The maps, created by the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), marked in red and labeled “hazardous” neighborhoods in cities across the nation that were predominantly occupied by minorities, immigrants and the poor. The color scheme on maps like these gave rise to the term redlining. Similar maps were used by banks, real estate brokers, local and federal government officials to segregate and intentionally starve those neighborhoods of bank loans for home purchases and small businesses. Redlining continued for decades, until Civil Rights-era laws outlawed it beginning in the 1960s.

The data reveals:

  • Greater historic redlining is related to current neighborhood characteristics, including increased minority presence, higher prevalence of poverty and greater social vulnerability.
  • Statistically significant associations between greater redlining and general indicators of population health, including increased prevalence of poor mental health and lower life expectancy at birth.
  • Differences in life expectancy vary greatly among cities: from 14.7 years less in redlined neighborhoods of Rochester, New York, to a 1.3 year greater life expectancy in redlined neighborhoods of Ogden, Utah.

Detailed maps are available for five cities in Georgia:

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