Abstract: Historical Redlining, Neighborhood Disadvantage, and Reports of Child Maltreatment in a Large Urban County (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Historical Redlining, Neighborhood Disadvantage, and Reports of Child Maltreatment in a Large Urban County

Friday, January 13, 2023
Valley of the Sun A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Tenesha Littleton, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, AL
Reiko Boyd, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Houston, TX
Bridget Freisthler, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Background and Purpose

Residential redlining was a racist zoning practice in the 1930s that blocked access to home loans for racial and ethnic minorities. Areas that were primarily inhabited by Black, Asian, Hispanic, and non-Western Europeans were assigned worse risk scores which resulted in high rates of home loan denial and systematic disinvestment from these communities. Currently, many of these areas experience racial segregation, disinvestment, and high rates of poverty. Residents are also at an increased risk for negative health outcomes including pre-term births, gun-shot related injuries, and chronic diseases. However, little is known about the potential impact of historical redlining on child maltreatment outcomes. The aim of this study is to explore the relationship between historical redlining and neighborhood rates of child maltreatment reports and determine if neighborhood concentrated disadvantage mediates this relationship. We hypothesize that poorly rated neighborhoods will experience higher rates of child maltreatment reports and concentrated disadvantage will mediate this relationship.


This study employed a cross sectional ecological design in which census tract was used as a proxy for neighborhood. Secondary sociodemographic data and child maltreatment data from 2015 was analyzed from the U.S. Census’ American Community Survey and the Child Welfare Indicators Project for 2,342 census tracts in Los Angeles County, CA. Historical redlining scores for each neighborhood were obtained from the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Higher scores (range =1-4) indicate worse rating of the neighborhood. A concentrated disadvantage index was created using the following variables: poverty rate, unemployment rate, percentage of households utilizing public assistance, and percentage of single female-headed households (Cronbach alpha = .83). The data analysis method used was spatial error regression to control for spatial autocorrelation associated with adjacent spatial units. An interaction term was included in the spatial model to determine if concentrated disadvantage mediates the relationship between historical redlining and rates of child maltreatment reports.


The average rate of reports was 48 reports per 1000 children (SD=34.8). About 37% of neighborhoods received a rating of “definitely declining” or “hazardous.” Neighborhoods that received worst historical redlining scores had higher reports of child maltreatment. Concentrated disadvantaged mediated the relationship between historical redlining scores and reports of child maltreatment. The model accounted for about 53% of the variance in rates of child maltreatment reports.

Conclusions and Implications

Neighborhoods with worst historical redlining scores had a higher number of child maltreatment reports and neighborhood disadvantage mediated this relationship. The vestiges of historical redlining and present-day discriminatory housing practices that restrict housing choice disproportionately harm low-income, minority communities and negatively impacts the wellbeing of children and families. The national child maltreatment prevention strategy should emphasize equitable, placed-based social policies that dismantle patterns of housing segregation and enhance access to high opportunity neighborhoods.