Redlining and How Housing Inequality Affects Educational Opportunities

Taherah Lynch
6 min readDec 7, 2020

In the 1600s when Africans were dragged out of their homes and villages and packed on ships in such inhumane conditions to be forced to work as slaves in various colonies including America, black people lost their freedom. For years Blacks lived as slaves and were mistreated by their owners/slave masters who saw them as nothing more than property and not as human beings. They endured these hardships, working as slaves until 1865 when the 13th amendment was passed by congress abolishing slavery in the United States, provided that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United Sates, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Though slavery was abolished Blacks were punished for simply being black and had to deal with issues which prevented them from living life as a free person. “The Emancipation Proclamation and the Union’s victory in the war secured the freedom of slaves, but with a society plagued by Jim Crow Laws and segregation, ex slaves were far from liberated. Slaves paid the price for their freedom as emancipation introduced new hardships, insecurities and humiliation”(The University of Richmond). Blacks faced all forms of inequality such as housing inequality and redlining which will be thoroughly analyzed and discussed.

After blacks were emancipated one might argue that their lives became even more difficult for many years, housing segregation being of the major issues they had to deal with. Now, lets fast forward to the 1930s, in the wake of the Great Depression, the government wanted to bring economic relief to the citizens of the United Sates through a program called the New Deal. One part of the New Deal was The National Housing Act (1934) which introduced the 30-year mortgage and low fixed interests. Through this, lower income families were able to afford homes, The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation was then implemented to make sure these people do not default of their mortgages. The HOLC created residential security maps, from which the term redlining originated. On this map different colors represented different areas of a city which was used to evaluate mortgage lending risk. “The HOLC employed local real estate and finance experts to conduct systematic neighborhoods appraisals in the 1930s and used the survey data to create Residential Security maps representing the perceived neighborhood risk” (Crossney, 2016) This map and policies associated with this map was how black people suffered even more by being redlined. According to Mitchell, neighborhoods considered high risk or hazardous were often redlined by lending institutions, denying them access to capital investment which could improve the housing and economic opportunity of residents. (2018) These ‘redlined’ areas were considered detrimental and hazardous, because these were the areas where immigrants, low class whites and most importantly Blacks lived. While African American continued to live in these neighborhoods, not necessarily because they cannot afford to buy houses elsewhere, White Americans fled to upcoming suburban neighborhoods which instituted rules banning blacks from purchasing homes in those areas.

History of Redlining in Philadelphia

Redlining happened all over the United States affecting millions of people from minority groups and low income families. “In Philadelphia the areas which were redlined were areas of the South, West and Lower North Philadelphia that form a ring around downtown” (Crossney, 2016). The nature of Philadelphia as an industrial city, and the close proximity between factories and residential areas, prompted numerous areas to receive the lowest grade as high hazard regions.Redlining was later officially banned in 1968 under the grounds of housing discrimination and racial segregation. “In North Philadelphia, the inability of many African American to obtain mortgages in the mid 20th century still hampers the community today” (Blumgart, 2017). Though redlining was banned over fifty years ago, the effects of it has continued to disrupt the lives of minority groups and has severely deprived them of opportunities such as receiving a proper education.

Effects of Redlining on Education

Studies have shown that many neighborhoods which were once redlined years ago continue to struggle economically in modern day. For instance, According to Crossney, Strawberry Mansion developed in the late years of the 1800s at the edge of Fairmount Park in North Philadelphia. Between the 1940s and 1960s , when many white residents exploited FHA mortgage insurance for buyers of new suburban homes, Strawberry Mansion’s population drastically changed from 89% white and 11% black, to 5% percent white and 95% black. Seller had fewer and lower offers from buyers, setting off a decay that proceeded for quite a long time. Strawberry Mansion continued as a low-income neighborhood, with high crimes rates poor living conditions with numerous abandoned buildings.

Racial segregation had already existed but redlining lead to a drastic increase. Because of this, things such as the educational experience students receive living in these once redlined areas are of a lower quality than those who reside in suburban areas. In the Film Rise and Shine, the Strawberry Mansion High School was highlighted. In this documentary the principal of the school Linda Wayman described the state of the school, the potential it has and also the key factor to potential growth which are resources. Resources such as books, technology and properly trained teachers are what these schools lack. These resources are limited in schools located in low income areas simply because of where the school is located, which majority of these areas were redlined years ago. “The echoes of this policy still impact our cityscapes. With educational funding tied to property taxes, and in extension the value of the housing in a neighborhood, redlining still contributes to the systematic denial of resources to poor and minority neighborhoods” (Lebret, 2019) Students are required to attend the school in the zip code they reside in. According to Edwards, a reflective indicator of education quality is housing policy and the opportunities and resources available at your neighborhood school (2020). If a student lives in a low-income area where the resources are limited due to little funding that school receives this this impacts the quality of the education that student will receive. Even if a student is performing well academically and has the ability to attend a school in a better school district based on thats student academic achievements, he or she may not able to do so because their parents are stuck in the neighborhood they can afford due to low income.

Students of color continue to be treated unequally than white students both through their personal lives and the education system, if this continues and policymakers to do fix systematic racism and modern day redlining minority groups will continue to be deprived of the opportunity to social upward mobility.


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