Historical residential redlining and children’s vulnerability to climate change in the Southeast United States


Authors: Devon Nenon, Yui Fujii, James Martin III, Christine C Ekenga, and Eric S Coker
Page Range: 431-447
Published in: International Public Health Journal, 15#4 (2023)
ISSN: 1947-4989

Table of Contents


Little is known about the impacts of historical redlining, a racially discriminatory housing practice, on future or current cumulative children’s environmental health burdens. The Southeast has one of the hottest climates in the United States (US) and the severity of extreme heat is expected to increase in the region due to climate change. The southeast also faces high levels of concentrated child poverty and air pollution-related inequalities. This study investigates relationships between redlining and combined stressors for multiple dimensions of the environment, including differences in climate change-related temperatures, in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Methods: We combined data on long-term historical ambient PM2.5 and maximum temperature, climate change-related temperature projections, greenspace (normalized differential vegetative index [NDVI)) and child poverty. Multilevel linear regression and cluster analysis tested associations between Homeowners’ Loan Corporation grades (A through D) and multiple environmental stressors, including differences in child poverty and climate change-related temperatures. Results: Relative to grade A neighborhoods, redlined neighborhoods are associated with higher historical maximum temperature ( = 0.07 [95% CI: 0.03, 0.11]), average temperatures in 2080 ( = 0.03 [0.00, 0.05]), summertime temperatures in 2080 ( = 0.06 [0.03, 0.09]), and changes in summertime temperatures ( = 0.006 [0.002, 0.01]). Average PM2.5 ( = 0.24 [0.16, 0.32]) and NDVI ( = -0.06 [-0.08, -0.04]) are significantly worse in redlined neighborhoods. Cluster analysis identified redlined neighborhoods vulnerable to heat-related climate change impacts and combined high child poverty and environmental stressors. Conclusions: Historical redlining is associated with climate-related heat burdens in the Southeast US. This study can inform targeted climate adaptation efforts for communities impacted by structural racism.

Keywords: Historical redlining, climate, heat, community, racism, United States

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