Latest Project Out of UR Digital Scholarship Lab Shows Higher Risk of COVID-19 in Neighborhoods Redlined 80 Years Ago

September 17, 2020

UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND ─ A new mapping project just released from the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab shows lower-income and minority neighborhoods that experienced redlining (racially-motivated lending discrimination) decades ago have a higher prevalence of chronic diseases, which are risk factors for COVID-19.

The project is part of a new study from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition along with researchers from UR and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Joseph J. Zilber School of Public Health. The study compares infamous 1930’s redlining maps made by the federal government with current demographic and public health data. Research reveals historically redlined neighborhoods today experience more chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and stroke. The prevalence of those illnesses increase the risk of poor health outcomes from COVID-19.

"One of the reasons the HOLC maps are so powerful is that they're so recognizable,” said Rob Nelson, director of the Digital Scholarship Lab. “When people look at a map of their city made more than eight decades ago showing the contours of privilege and vulnerability during the Great Depression, they often remark how little has changed."

The new map, “Not Even Past: Social Vulnerability and the Legacy of Redlining,” is the latest work out of the DSL focusing on redlining through maps from the Home Owners Loan Corporation. The DSL’s project “Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America,” is frequently used by media and scholars studying and investigating redlining. Learn more in this joint press release from UR’s Digital Scholarship Lab, NCRC, and UWM.