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What Is Redlining?

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Redlining is the practice of denying, or increasing the cost of services such as banking, insurance, access to jobs,access to health care, or even supermarkets to residents in particular, often racially determined, areas. The term "redlining" was coined in the late 1960s by John McKnight, a Northwestern University sociologist and community activist. It describes the practice of marking a red line on a map to delineate the area where banks would not invest; later the term was applied to discrimination against a particular group of people (usually by race or sex) no matter the geography. During the heyday of redlining, the areas most frequently discriminated against were black inner city neighborhoods. For example, in Atlanta in the 1980s, a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles by investigative reporter Bill Dedman showed that banks would often lend to lower-income whites but not to middle/upper-income blacks. The use of blacklists is a related concept also used by redliners to keep track of groups, areas, and people that the discriminating party feels should be denied business or aid or other transactions. Reverse redlining occurs when a lender or insurer particularly targets minority consumers, not to deny them loans or insurance, but rather to charge them more than would be charged to a similarly situated majority consumer.

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