Experience level: 
Intended Audience: 
Vivek H. Patil

Visualizing Relationships Between Redlining Practices and Neighborhood Inequities using GIS

Planning for community development involves balancing competing interests related to equity, economy, and the environment. The usefulness of geographic data for such planning has led to an increase in the use of geographic information systems (GIS) tools to aid planners in their efforts. This paper builds on this body of research and explores the relationship between the prevalence of redlining in the 1930s and different social, economic, healthcare, and environmental variables across different neighborhoods in Spokane, Washington. The practice of redlining, which is now illegal but was prevalent in the 1930s in over 200 cities in the US, has been linked to long-term inequities in communities across the US with respect to health, education, socio-economic outcomes, and increased exposures to environmental heat-related negative outcomes. The Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC) practiced redlining by ranking different residential neighborhoods in over 200 cities in the US on the basis of the riskiness in investing in the neighborhoods. The riskiest neighborhoods were generally those that had high concentrations of residents from the minority community, typically Black, immigrants, and working-class residents. Using data collected from authoritative databases such as the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) and American Community Surveys that are collected by the US Census Bureau, we create a series of maps to study the spatial distribution of different variables. We find that there are certain neighborhoods in Spokane that perform relatively well on many indicators, while there are certain neighborhoods that could benefit from additional resources and development opportunities. Many of the resource-poor neighborhoods are also those that were redlined in the 1930s by the HOLC. We believe that the presentation of data using GIS tools could provide policy makers with a visual mechanism to help them optimally allocate resources to different neighborhoods. As a result, we recommend that Jesuit Business Schools add the use of GIS tools to their curricula.