Do you have asthma? In the US, asthma is more common in communities of color. But why is that? People of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with worse air quality and more poverty. But this is only the start of the answer. Why are those neighborhoods like that?

A discriminatory system from 85 years ago labeled Black and Hispanic neighborhoods as worse (“lower grade”) than white neighborhoods. This meant these neighborhoods received less investment (money) than white neighborhoods. We wanted to find out if this grading system from the past might relate to asthma rates in these neighborhoods today.

We found that asthma emergencies are more common in those neighborhoods that were once labeled low grade. So was air pollution, the percentage of people living in poverty, and the percentage of people of color. A discriminatory plan from many years ago may be one of the underlying causes of asthma emergencies among people of color today. 

To fight asthma, we need to uplift all communities, especially those harmed by the low grade label. We also need to ensure that outlawed and outdated policies are not still harming people living in these places.

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About this article

Summary of research
Researchers wanted to find out if a discriminatory system from 85 years ago might relate to asthma rates in “lower grade” neighborhoods in US cities.
Reading level
Scientific field
Key words
Scientific methods
Type of figure
AP Environmental science topics
IB Biology topics
Location of research
Scientist Affiliation
Publication date
October 2020

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