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Long-term effects of redlining on climate risk exposure


We investigate the potential long-term impacts of ‘redlining’—the historical practice of assigning values to residential areas in US cities based on race and class—on the vulnerability of communities to climate risks. Using a boundary design methodology for 202 US cities, we document that areas marked by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation as being less desirable for investment in the 1930s–1940s face disproportionately higher current and projected risks of flooding and extreme heat. These heightened vulnerabilities are partly due to diminished environmental capital in these areas—most notably, reduced tree canopy, lower ground surface permeability and lower construction foundation height. Our findings underscore the persistent influence of historical practices on the present-day distribution of climate risk exposure.

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Fig. 1: Visualization of the sample construction.
Fig. 2: Effects of historical HOLC grades on current exposure to climate risks and current environmental capital.

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Data availability

We have provided web links to all publicly available data used in our analysis in the Methods. The First Street Foundation flood data are confidential and cannot be shared publicly. We do not have the permission to share the historical census data that we obtained from Aaronson et al. (2021).

Code availability

The code used to reproduce these findings is available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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We thank D. Aaronson, D. Hartley and L. Plachinski for sharing historical data with us. B. Hansbrough provided excellent research assistance. All errors are ours. We have no funding to declare. The views expressed here are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond or the Federal Reserve System.

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A.S.-M. and T.P. designed the research methods. C.C. performed the data analysis. A.S.-M. and J.H. provided subject matter expertise. A.S.-M., C.C., T.P. and J.H. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Arianna Salazar-Miranda.

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Nature Cities thanks Shannon Van Zandt and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Salazar-Miranda, A., Conzelmann, C., Phan, T. et al. Long-term effects of redlining on climate risk exposure. Nat Cities 1, 436–444 (2024).

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