MapMaker: Redlining in the United States

MapMaker: Redlining in the United States

Redlining is a racially discriminatory and, now, illegal practice of devaluing homes in racially mixed or neighborhoods with few or no white residents. It impacted homeownership and its impacts can still be seen today.


8 - 12+


Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Human Geography, Social Studies, Civics, U.S. History

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Redlining is the discriminatory and, now, illegal practice of refusing someone credit, a loan, or insurance, or adding unfair terms in those contracts based on their race or ethnicity. The term comes from the red lines real estate lenders drew on their maps marking predominantly Black or mixed-race neighborhoods.

While discrimination occurred prior to the 1930s, the United States established the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) and the Federal Housing Administration during the New Deal Era made the practice much more systematic. This was a form of federal aid aimed at preventing foreclosures during the Great Depression. They created internal (nonpublic) residential security maps to help decision-makers in the government and financial institutions decide which communities could receive government-insured mortgages, a loan for property where the lender can obtain ownership of the property should payments not be made, for homeownership. They marked places as follows:

Green or A (“Best”): A “ethnically homogeneous” (read as white), U.S. born, upper- or middle-class neighborhood where “professional men” lived.

Blue or B (“Still Desirable”): Established, most or nearly all-white, U.S.-born neighborhood with a low chance of having an immigrant or person of color move in.

Yellow or C (“Definitely Declining”): Neighborhoods bordering Black neighborhoods where European immigrants and working-class people lived. These places were viewed as concerning as “undesirable populations” could join the community.

Red or D (“Hazardous”): Neighborhoods where Black, Mexican, Asian, Jewish, or other groups lived. These locations were often also in industrial areas with older buildings and infrastructure.

Classifying places in this manner is no longer legal thanks to the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which passed due to activism efforts by the NAACP and other groups. While this act made it illegal to use race to discriminate against prospective homeowners some predatory lending practices still occur. Further, the effects of redlining can still be seen. Areas classified as red or yellow in the 1930s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, are often still underserved today, lacking basic services, and generally report lower levels of household wealth and health compared with those marked green or blue.

This map layer was created by Esri and the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab. It features approximately 143 cities and 7,148 neighborhoods in the United States of America, a subset of the more than 200 cities that were redlined by HOLC in the 1930s. Due to licensing rules, National Geographic is unable to host the full dataset at this time.

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Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Expert Reviewer
Anita Palmer
Last Updated

June 20, 2024

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