By Virgie Hoban, November 19, 2020, Berkeley News.
It was a racist policy enacted over 80 years ago, but its aftermath dribbles on — all the way to the babies born today, new research shows.
Using historical maps and modern birth data, UC Berkeley researchers have found that babies born in California neighborhoods historically redlined — denied federal investments based on the discriminatory lending practices of the 1930s — are now more likely to have poorer health outcomes. The study was published open access, freely available to the public, through the UC Berkeley Library, ensuring that evidence of redlining’s insidious effects can be shared as widely as possible — and acted upon.
“People often say, ‘That was a racist policy from the 1930s — 80 years have passed, and we don’t do that anymore,’” says Rachel Morello-Frosch, an author of the study and a professor in UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. “Studies like this show that these legacies of structural racism, even though they happened many, many decades ago, are still exerting their health effects today.
The research team compared publicly available birth outcome data from 2006 to 2015 with maps drawn by the now-defunct Home Owners’ Loan Corp., or HOLC — the government-sponsored body tasked with assessing lending and insurance risks. A dominant factor in those assessments was race, with entire communities of color swathed in bright red.