Mapping Prejudice: The Effect of Racial Covenants on the Neighborhoods of Hennepin County

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Students at St. Kate’s are engaging with the WTDN in a variety of classes. Here’s how our students are thinking about the issues related to housing inequality and housing segregation. Their work demonstrates “thinking in progress”. 

Mapping Prejudice: The Effect of Racial Covenants on Neighborhoods in Hennepin County

By Anchee Nitschke Durben, Emma Stefanovich, & Maria Ngangsic-Asongu | Fall 2021  | Class: DSCI 1000 Data Visualization Class

Racial covenants may not be legally enforceable today, but they have left behind generations of inequities. For Hennepin County residents, this means different health and economic outcomes resulting only from where they live. We aim to assess the lasting effects of racial covenants and how they have shaped the neighborhoods of today’s Hennepin county. 

Map 1: Hennepin’s Covenants

This map displays the locations of racial covenants in Hennepin County. The housing outlined in red have covenants in their deeds. Racial covenant data is from The University of Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice Project.

The most notable aspect of this map is the rectangle formed around downtown Minneapolis by the covenants. This area is where many of the patterns we will examine take place. 

Map 2: Parks and Covenants

The map below overlays racial covenants and parks in Hennepin County. Green areas on the map are designated as parks, and racial covenants are outlined in red. Park data is from Hennepin County GIS

As the map shows, areas with racial covenants are more likely to be around parks, and areas without covenants are less likely to have green spaces. This is especially evident in downtown Minneapolis. Parks help improve the health of residents by providing space to exercise and clean air for communities. The association between the covenants of the past and the green spaces of today demonstrates the lasting effects of covenants on the neighborhoods of Hennepin, which in turn influences the health and wellbeing of its residents. 

Map 3: Surface Temperature and Covenants

This map shows land surface temperatures and racial covenants in Hennepin County. Yellow, orange, and red represent hotter areas of the county, while green and blue areas are cooler areas. Temperature data is from the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Council GIS System Administrator. Racial covenants are overlaid in light pink.

The hottest temperatures in Hennepin County skirt around areas with racial covenants, while areas without covenants are the hottest areas in the county. Further, downtown Minneapolis has the hottest temperatures in the county. Hotter temperatures often lead to worse health outcomes. This disproportionately impacts the health of communities in areas without racial covenants and reinforces present-day health disparities. The hottest areas in the county are also less likely to have open green spaces and places to exercise–as seen in the previous map–further detracting from community health.

The two previous maps examined the conditions of neighborhoods a resident may experience while growing up, which have considerable effects on health. Beyond childhood health lies education and socioeconomic status.

Graph 1: Graduation Rates, Population, and Poverty

This graph displays college graduation rates versus nonwhite shares along with poor shares and neighborhood population size. Graduation rates are on the y-axis, nonwhite shares are on the x-axis, population size is shown by the size of each circle, and poor share is indicated by the color of each circle. The included trendline shows that as the nonwhite share of a neighborhood increases, its graduation rates decrease. All data is from The Opportunity Atlas

One of the major determinants of upward mobility and future success is education. As such, a neighborhood’s overall graduation rate can be indicative of its residents’ upward mobility. This graph shows that neighborhoods in Hennepin county with larger nonwhite populations have lower graduation rates and larger poor populations. This association will be key to keep in mind for the following maps.

Map 4: Race/Ethnicity and Covenants

This map shows the predominant race or ethnicity of different census tracts in Hennepin County and racial covenants. White and grey represents White populations, blue represents Black or African American, green represents Hispanic or Latino, and purple represents Asian. Darker colors represent a stronger predominance of a given race or ethnicity. This data is from the American Community Survey’s Race data. The racial covenants are overlaid on top.

Racial covenants were created to keep neighborhoods segregated. Present-day demographics show that segregation persists into the current day. Areas with racial covenants are predominantly White, while areas without covenants are more diverse with Black, Hispanic, Latino, and Asian populations. The health impact of these covenants seen in the previous visuals and the demographic data here depicts some of the reasons why health disparities exist in Hennepin County today.

Map 5: Socioeconomic Status and Covenants

The visual shows racial covenants and the neighborhood socioeconomic status in each census tract in Hennepin County. Socioeconomic status is shown in shades of purple. Socioeconomic status is represented by color, ranging from pale purple for low SES to dark purple for high SES. This data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011-2015 American Community Survey. Racial covenants are overlaid in red. 

Socioeconomic status (SES) encompasses multiple factors in people’s lives, such as income, education, and financial status. As shown in the visual, areas with racial covenants have the highest socioeconomic status. Higher socioeconomic status is associated with less work-related stress, fewer unhealthy behaviors, and higher income. All of these factors promote healthier living, but not all Hennepin County residents have the resources to lead healthy lifestyles. Compared to areas with covenants, areas that do not have covenants have significantly lower SES and opportunities for healthy living. Areas with lower SES are also the same areas where more nonwhite residents currently live, as seen in the previous map.

Graph 2: Median Rent, Poverty, and Nonwhite Share

This graph shows the poor share of a neighborhood versus its median rent, along with nonwhite share and population size. The median rent is shown on the y-axis, the poor share is shown on the x-axis, the population size is shown by the size of each circle, and the nonwhite share is indicated by the color of each circle. The included trendline shows that as a neighborhood’s poor share increases, its median rent decreases. All data is from The Opportunity Atlas.

A neighborhood’s rent prices is often indicative of its overall wealth and upward mobility. This visual shows that neighborhoods with higher rent tend to have smaller poor populations and smaller nonwhite populations. The fact that the areas with higher poor populations are the same as areas with higher nonwhite populations and lower rent means that the nonwhite residents of Hennepin county are experiencing economic inequities. Based on the associations seen in the previous visuals, this could be caused by their neighborhoods’ infrastructure, health, and education resources (or lack thereof).

The health of Hennepin County’s residents–especially those of color–is closely tied to the location of racial covenants. Although the racist housing policies of the early 1900s are no longer being enforced, their impact is still felt today. Unless Hennepin county addresses these inequities, their residents’ health and upward mobility will continue to be stunted by the racial covenants of the past.