Cleveland Neighborhoods 'Redlined' in the 1930s Are the Same Ones Dealing With Lead, Sexual Assault, Poverty and Poor Internet Issues Today

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The red color indicates neighborhoods redlined in the 1930s. - CASE WESTERN RESERVE UNIVERSITY
  • Case Western Reserve University
  • The red color indicates neighborhoods redlined in the 1930s.

In the process of working on a comprehensive project to examine unsubmitted sexual assaults in Cleveland, senior research associates with Case Western Reserve University's Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research and Education discovered a correlation in the data related to the legacy of housing segregation and discrimination in Cleveland and the current rates of poverty and crime within the city's neighborhoods.

After analyzing banking and lending maps of Cleveland from the 1930s, Rachel Lovell and Misty Luminais found that although the lending practice of rejecting mortgage applications to minorities and for houses in and near specific neighborhoods populated by minorities was banned more than 50 years ago, the effects redlining, unsurprisingly, persist today.

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

As the two tracked the locations where unsubmitted sexual assault kits were the highest in Cleveland, they discovered they were in the same neighborhoods with the highest levels of lead found in the blood of children, the areas with the poorest internet access today, and the same neighborhoods that were redlined 80 years ago.



 "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.”

These findings weren't really a surprise to the researchers, but the fact that Cleveland's socio-economic divide is still so prominent is troubling.

"Suburbanization, white flight—cities have been grappling with this for decades," Lovell tells Scene. "This is our community. This is our data. We should be talking about these things. There’s a tendency to still want to put certain resources in certain neighborhoods, like schooling. It leads to a replication of inequality where those who go to better schools get better jobs and it’s very hard to counter that. It takes very intentional practices, and politically, it’s very difficult to fund those types of initiatives."

This discovery of redlining's correlation to today's poverty levels were just some of the findings in Lovell and Luminais' research, as their main focus is gaining a better understanding of sexual offenders. "This research can really speak to the fact that it’s not an individual’s personal behavior, but what are the combination of factors in those environments that produce greater risks," says Lovell.

Things like lead, access to high-speed internet and socio-economic status are all factors that can all contribute to risk. Lovell says the next step is to see what is specifically at those locations to see what is producing greater risks, but that we first have to incorporate the historical context for discrimination in order to come up with new ways to design interventions that may alleviate some of the risk factors.

"We don’t want to further stigmatize these neighborhoods, but not talking about the issues that already exist is not a good alternative either," Lovell says.

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