Connecting past to present: Examining different approaches to linking historical redlining to present day health inequities

Our article in PLOS ONE
Published: 05.19.2022 Updated: 12.13.2022


In the 1930’s, the Home Owner Loan Corporation (HOLC) drafted maps to quantify variation in real estate credit risk across US city neighborhoods. The letter grades and associated risk ratings assigned to neighborhoods discriminated against those with black, lower class, or immigrant residents and benefitted affluent white neighborhoods. An emerging literature has begun linking current individual and community health effects to government redlining, but each study faces the same measurement problem: HOLC graded area boundaries and neighborhood boundaries in present-day health datasets do not match. Previous studies have taken different approaches to classify present day neighborhoods (census tracts) in terms of historical HOLC grades. This study reviews these approaches, examines empirically how different classifications fare in terms of predictive validity, and derives a predictively optimal present-day neighborhood redlining classification for neighborhood and health research.

Clemens Noelke
Clemens Noelke
Research Director
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Mikyung Baek
Senior Research Associate, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity
Jason Reece
Jason Reece
Assistant Professor, Knowlton School of Architecture, The Ohio State University
headshot of expert Theresa Osypuk
Theresa Osypuk
Associate Professor, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota
Nancy McArdle
Nancy McArdle
Senior Research Analyst
Headshot of Robert Ressler
Robert Ressler
Senior Research Associate
Headshot of Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Dolores Acevedo-Garcia
Director, Professor of Human Development and Social Policy