By Dylan Lukes and Christopher Cleveland, Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock, Housing Matters, November 9, 2022
Starting in 1935, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) began ranking neighborhoods around the US based on a calculation of loan risk that explicitly associated white populations with low risk and Black populations with high risk. HOLC graded areas from A (minimal risk) to D (hazardous). They color-coded these grades onto maps that banks and lenders used to inform their decisions about whether a given mortgage loan should be approved or denied, a process termed “redlining.” Given the explicitly racism of these grades, D graded—or red—ratings were often neighborhoods with more Black or other residents of color, which resulted in disparities in opportunities for homeownership and historic underinvestment.
This study examines how the HOLC maps relate to current patterns of school funding, diversity, and performance. To link the historic HOLC maps to the current educational system, the authors mapped 144 HOLC-graded neighborhoods to present-day school and district boundaries. For individual schools, they assigned HOLC A–D grades based on the overlap of the school’s location and the historic HOLC A–D graded area. For districts, they determined HOLC A–D mappings using the area, in square miles, of HOLC A–D polygons that overlap with each respective district boundary.
The authors then used these mapping areas to analyze different relationships between the HOLC maps and current school funding, test scores, and demographics. They analyzed school funding data from Georgetown’s National Education Resource Database on Schools along with demographic data from the National Center for Education Statistics and school performance data from the Stanford Education Data Archive.