A map of Cleveland showing redlined neighborhoods

Legacy of ‘redlining’: How 1930s Cleveland mortgage-lending maps mirror today’s poverty

Many of the Cleveland neighborhoods that banks “redlined” almost a century ago have some of the city’s highest rates of poverty and crime.

Although the lending practice of rejecting mortgage applications in specific neighborhoods—more accurately, to minorities—was banned more than 50 years ago, the effects of this so-called “redlining” still reverberate.

And, now this phenomenon can be illustrated in a visually compelling format, thanks to a team of researchers from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.

While working on a comprehensive project to examine unsubmitted sexual assaults in Cleveland, Rachel Lovell and Misty Luminais, both senior research associates with the university’s Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education, found compelling contemporary patterns in the data relating to the legacy of housing discrimination.

Analyzing banking and lending maps of Cleveland from the 1930s, Lovell and Luminais layered on additional data sets via global information systems (GIS) mapping, and found:

  • Locations where unsubmitted sexual assault kits were the highest are the same neighborhoods with the highest levels of lead found in the blood of children;
  • Neighborhoods redlined 80 years ago reflected patterns of poor internet access, “almost to the exact same borders,” Lovell said.

“There appears to be a strong relationship between the history of redlining in Cleveland and the steady decline of neighborhoods,” Luminais said. “If you overlay the redlining maps and some of these other trends, it’s as if you’re looking at the same map.”

Case Western Reserve University librarians and researchers at the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education will host an upcoming community forum and interactive session on how to use mapping tools for good.

This session, titled “Mapping for Good: The Role of the Built Environment in Offending Patterns,” will be held Tuesday, July 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at MidTown Tech Hive (6815 Euclid Ave.).

The event costs $15 and scholarships are available. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

Learn more and register on the Eventbrite website.

The Cleveland redline map shows how loan officers, appraisers and real-estate professionals evaluated mortgage-lending risk in the early 1900s. The maps highlight that minority groups—particularly African-Americans—were excluded from receiving home loans.

“Next, we will try to see whether there’s definitive causation,” Lovell said, “and then, of course, identify solutions.”

Lovell and Luminais worked closely with graduate student Kristen Berg and the Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship on the project.

*Data collected for this project originates from multiple sources, and includes both publicly available data and data made available exclusively to the project team and CWRU for educational, scholarly, and research purposes. Users seeking to copy, reproduce or distribute any data in the project that is not publicly available must seek written permission from the data owners. 

These data should not be interpreted to be representative of the locations of all sexual assaults or all reported sexual assaults in Cuyahoga County. Aggregated to the Cuyahoga County U.S. census tract level, these data detail the location of sexual assaults that had unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAKs) in Cuyahoga County. This sample consists of sexual assaults that were not previously adjudicated (meaning the offender had not previously been convicted, acquitted, or plead guilty for the sexual assault connected to the SAK). This sample consists of all completed sexual assault investigations by the Cuyahoga County SAK Task Force (the Task Force) as of August 2015 (N = 433) that were either indicted (n = 341; 79%) or not indicted due to insufficient evidence (n = 92; 21%). 

These sexual assaults occurred between March 1992 and September 2014; however, the majority of the sexual assaults occurred between 1993 and 1999 (80.5%), which reflects the prioritization of cases based on the state’s statute of limitations. While the Task Force’s focus is on unsubmitted SAKs from 1993 through 2009, in some instances— if an offender is linked to a sexual assault outside of this time frame— the Task Force, when applicable, will incorporate that sexual assault with the unsubmitted SAK investigation and prosecution. For this reason, this sample includes some sexual assaults that occurred before 1993 and after 2009.

For more information, contact Colin McEwen at colin.mcewen@case.edu