Project Wonder - The art of science at the Medical College of Wisconsin

Redlining, Race, Bias, and Breast Cancer

Can maps contribute to better solutions for the disproportionate rate of and harm done by cancer in different neighborhoods? Scientists, including those at MCW, have shown that neighborhood characteristics (such as socioeconomic status, racial segregation, home ownership and walkability) influence cancer rates and levels of survivorship as well as many other health outcomes.

Mapping these data helps identify trends at local, regional, and international levels. It also can reveal whether a pattern in Milwaukee holds true in other cities, which can inform more targeted local public health and policy priorities. Kirsten Beyer, PhD, MPH, MS, associate professor of epidemiology in the MCW Institute for Health & Equity, and a team of faculty members, fellows, residents, students and staff members are focused on understanding the health effects of mortgage lending practices in neighborhoods. They define mortgage lending bias as the systematic denial of mortgage financing to specific neighborhoods or applicants, which can reduce access to housing, wealth accumulation and economic development while increasing segregation.

This work continues to generate new knowledge to help guide efforts to improve health equity, including results published in March in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City showing the persistence of mortgage lending bias over time by comparing historical maps of redlining practices in the1930s to current measures of mortgage lending bias and segregation. Dr. Beyer and her co-authors said their data on the durability of these inequities demonstrate the importance of a comprehensive approach combining multiple strategies for changing pathways to home ownership and neighborhood vitality across racial, socioeconomic and geographical groups.

Artwork by Marquayla Ellison
Research by Kirsten Beyer, PhD, MPH, MS

More information on Breast Cancer, Race, and Place.