Childhood Asthma: A Lingering Effect of Redlining

Childhood Asthma: A Lingering Effect of Redlining

New research shows that disparities in housing contribute to disparities in one of the most common chronic diseases afflicting children.

Kriston Capps, City Lab, May 23, 2019. Available here

In the 1930s, a New Deal agency produced notorious maps to signal the credit worthiness of neighborhoods for mortgage lenders looking to refinance homes. These redlining maps color-coded predominantly African American neighborhoods as “hazardous,” indicating a high credit risk. Decades later, the “hazardous” warnings appear to be literally true.  

A new study finds that people who live in historically redlined neighborhoods are more than twice as likely as others to go to the emergency room for asthma. The new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco, links decades of residential segregation to new findings of environmental racism. Disparities in housing contribute to disparities in the morbidity of asthma—one of the most common chronic diseases afflicting children.

The study examined historic redlining maps produced by the government-sponsored Home Owners’ Loan Corporation for eight cities in California (San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, Los Angeles, and San Diego). Researchers led by Anthony Nardone, a medical student from the universities’ Joint Medical Program, compared the risk ratings with the number of emergency room visits for asthma for corresponding census tracts. Residents of redlined “high-risk” neighborhoods were 2.4 times more likely to go to the ER for asthma than residents of green “low-risk” areas.

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