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Working Papers

November 2022, No. 22-09R

Long-term Causal Effects of Redlining on Environmental Risk Exposure (Revised March 2023)

Claire Conzelmann, Arianna Salazar-Miranda, Toan Phan and Jeremy S. Hoffman

We provide new evidence that policies implemented nearly a century ago have significant causal effects on the exposure of 9 urban communities in the U.S. to climate-related risks. Using a boundary design, we show that redlining, a discriminatory federal housing policy pursued in the 1930s and outlawed in the 1960s, has resulted in persistent inequality in climate risk exposure. Locations in neighborhoods assigned lower credit grades have significantly higher exposure to flooding and higher air temperatures than comparable locations with higher grades. We attribute these disparities to lower measures of environmental capital, specifically tree coverage and ground surface perviousness, in these neighborhoods. Our findings underscore the ongoing causal effects of historical housing policies on present-day exposure to climate risks, and highlight the need to address the legacies of past policies in adapting to future climate risks.


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