New study finds formerly demarcated neighborhoods at higher risk for COVID-19

People living in neighborhoods formerly marked in red are more likely to have complications from COVID-19, according to a new study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

In collaboration with researchers from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Richmond, the NCRC study found that neighborhoods where discriminatory lending practices once limited access to credit for blacks, immigrants, and poor Americans have higher rates of COVID-19 comorbidities, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and obesity.

“This is no longer an abstract discussion or a theoretical discussion,” says Jason Richardson, NCRC director of research and evaluation and one of the report’s co-authors. “Areas in red mean people die much more frequently from COVID-19. “

The practice of redlining was codified by a card series created as part of the New Deal by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, which assessed the neighborhoods mortgage risk.

From the 1930s until the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, predominantly black, immigrant or poor neighborhoods were considered “unsafe” to lend compared to white neighborhoods.

“The policies of almost a century ago had an unintended consequence… by locking down this model of segregation,” says Richardson.

Today, according to the NCRC report, areas historically classified as “dangerous” continue to be separated by larger black and Latin American populations, higher poverty rates, lower life expectancy and poorer people. health outcomes.

The study concludes that these health disparities cannot be fully explained by individual lifestyle choices and instead are the result of a few healthy options and resources due to years of structural divestment.

“When you have a choice between a McDonald’s or the local convenience store for your groceries, you’re not going to have a healthy diet,” says Richarson. “Obesity is going to be more of a problem for you and that’s part of the story here.”

Several studies have shown that obesity increases the risk of death from COVID-19. The NCRC study found that one in three people living in areas historically marked in red are obese, compared to lower obesity rates in neighborhoods that were not marked in red.

“It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has devastatingly exposed existing inequalities in racial health,” said Helen Meier, Ph.D and assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee and co-author of the report, in a press release. “The disparities in COVID-19 infection and the severity of the disease are the result of widespread social and economic inequalities produced by structural racism. “

Nationally, the pandemic continues to disproportionately ill and kill people of color. Based on data from US Public Media Research LabAs part of the ongoing Color of Coronavirus Project, black Americans are dying from COVID-19 at rates 3.6 times higher than white Americans. Compared to white Americans, the death rate is 3.2 times higher for Latinos and 3.4 times higher for Natives, according to the data.

The authors of the NCRC study claim that this nationwide analysis is the first of its kind to be taken in depth at the neighborhood level to examine the impact of the historic red line on the transmission of COVID-19, but they do not think. not that it will be the last.

Richardson expects to see a lot more research on affordable housing and segregation continues as the pandemic continues.

“I hope that a report like ours or the others that I’m sure will come out will help communities see affordable housing as a health issue,” he says. “They should focus on providing affordable housing throughout the community, so as not to concentrate their serious health problems among minority and low-income families.”

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