Analyzing Segregation through Interactive Maps

I have recently been reading a book titled “The Color of Law,” which investigates the ways that the government was responsible for segregation in the United States. When trying to pick a project to analyze, it therefore made perfect sense that I would pick “Mapping Inequality,” a project that looks at redlining, an important aspect of segregation, during the New Deal.

The first image of the web-page, picturing a segregated neighborhood at the time

The Sources of the project are drawn from the data of the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, which kept detailed assessments of neighborhoods in many states. This provides a broad, but consistent data source. The files from the HOLC are at the national archives, so digitizing this data was important in making it more widely available.

Processing the data into something usable was essential although difficult. They had to make digital versions of the maps, as well as managing both real estate and demographic data. However, processing this through GIS and other systems helped them get a better view of how racism determined housing loans, despite other factors, such as quality of neighborhood, being the “reasoning” behind the HOLC’s choices.

The Presentation of this project is one of the clearest I’ve seen. They start off on a web-page with an introductory photo. It then follows by listing the four main things their website could be used to investigate, with photographs to explain each one. Then, there is a longer introduction and a search feature which allows you to investigate their maps by state or city, or to use the zoom feature to find other maps.

Overall, I think this site was very useful in learning more, although its focus is more in providing an easier way to access data than presenting a claim. I am especially impressed by the way they were able to transfer old, paper maps into an easily analyzable form.

Author: Abbey

2 thoughts on “Analyzing Segregation through Interactive Maps

  1. The book you mentioned sounds like a great read–I’ll have to check it out! Also, I really liked the photos you included in your blog post; very good visuals.

  2. Abby, I agree with you that the presentation of Mapping Inequality is very well done. Most similar projects that allow you to explore data do too little to orient you to what you are seeing or supposed to take away from it, but this hits the right balance for me.

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