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The Final Call: Redlining’s legacy endures as 45 million Americans breathe polluted air: Study

The Final Call, March 23, 2022, Redlining’s legacy endures as 45 million Americans breathe polluted air: Study

More than half a century after the official end of discriminatory redlining, 45 million people across the United States—overwhelmingly in communities of color—are exposed to elevated levels of illness-inducing air pollution, a study published March 9 affirmed.

Although redlining officially ended following passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, studies have shown the policy persists in practice in scores of metropolitan areas across the nation. Additionally, communities that were redlined remain predominantly minority and low-income today. A 2015 study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that in Baltimore, race–and not economic status—was the most important factor in mortgage lending. Formerly redlined communities also face greater climate-related risks.

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Redlining and Neighborhood Health

Before the pandemic devastated minority communities, banks and government officials starved them of capital.

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 new study, from 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.

Table of Content

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • Redlining, the HOLC Maps and Segregation
  • Segregation, Public Health and COVID-19
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion and Policy Recommendations
  • Citations
  • Appendix

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