Housing policies established more than eight decades ago that effectively trapped people of color in low income and segregated neighborhoods continue to affect the health of residents to this day, specifically resulting in poor obstetric outcomes such as pre-term birth, researchers report.

“These findings suggest the potential influences of a system of profound structural inequity that ripple forward in time, with impacts that extend beyond measurable socioeconomic inequality,” says coauthor Elaine Hill, an economist in the University of Rochester Medical Center public health sciences department.

“In our study population of a single midsized US city, historic redlining was associated with worse outcomes in pregnancy and childbirth experienced by Black women in the modern day.”

Beginning in the 1930s and 40s, the federal government created thousands of area descriptions for cities across the US. First created by the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), these policies were adopted by the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs and delineated areas where mortgages could be insured. The term redlining comes from the color that was used on HOLC maps to identify neighborhoods comprised predominately of people of color and labeled “hazardous”.

In the current paper, researchers focused on the region surrounding Rochester, New York. Using a New York State database of live births from 2005 to 2018, the team identified pre-term births (less than 37 weeks) by zip code, demographic characteristics of individuals, including race, and community survey data from the US Census Bureau on income, poverty, and educational attainment. Preterm births are associated with a range of outcomes, including higher risk for developing behavioral and social-emotional problems, learning difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and sudden infant death syndrome.

Read the full article about redlining policies by Mark Michaud at Futurity.