Mapping Inequality updates the study of New Deal America, the federal government, housing, and inequality for the twenty-first century. It offers unprecedented online access to the national collection of "security maps" and area descriptions produced between 1935 and 1940 by one of the New Deal's most important agencies, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation or HOLC (pronounced "holk").
HOLC recruited mortgage lenders, developers, and real estate appraisers in nearly 250 cities to create maps that color-coded credit worthiness and risk on neighborhood and metropolitan levels. These maps and their accompanying documentation helped set the rules for nearly a century of real estate practice. They have also served as critical evidence in countless urban studies in the fields of history, sociology, economics, and law. Indeed, more than a half-century of research has shown housing to be for the twentieth century what slavery was to the antebellum period, namely the broad foundation of both American prosperity and racial inequality. Through offering a digital library of the state's role in housing development, Mapping Inequality illustrates vividly the interplay between racism, administrative culture, economics, and the built environment.
Mapping Inequality introduces viewers to the records of the Home Owners Loan Corporation on a scale that is unprecedented. Visitors can browse over 150 interactive maps and roughly 5000 individual area descriptions to get a view of Depression-era America as developers, realtors, tax assessors, and surveyors saw it—a set of interlocking color-lines, racial groups, and environmental risks. (Nearly all of the maps and area descriptions are available here, though a handful haven't yet been added.) They can also use the maps and area descriptions to draw connections between past state actions (and inactions) and contemporary American problems.