Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Home Ownership Keeps Blacks Poorer Than Whites

Vice Provost Dorothy Brown
In an important article penned in late 2012 by Emory Law Professor and Vice Provost Dorothy Brown, she argues that home ownership continues to be a wealth building tool for white homeowners but does not benefit African American homeowners in the same way.  Her article continues to resonate in 2014 as real estate markets have seemingly rebounded in many communities across the nation, but not significantly for African American communities.  Writing for Forbes magazine, Brown posits:

"Home ownership has been an important vehicle in creating a solid white middle class, but it has not done the same for most black homeowners, because blacks and whites buy homes in very different neighborhoods. Research shows that homes in majority black neighborhoods do not appreciate as much as homes in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods. This appreciation gap begins whenever a neighborhood is more than 10% black, and it increases right along with the percentage of black homeowners. Yet most blacks decide to live in majority minority neighborhoods, while most whites live in overwhelmingly white neighborhoods."

Brown continues by arguing that this divide and the wealth gap between black and whites is not as much about class as it is about race:

"If you think this is class and not race, you are wrong. A 2001 Brookings Institution study showed that 'wealthy minority neighborhoods had less home value per dollar of income than wealthy white neighborhoods.' The same study concluded that 'poor white neighborhoods had more home value per income than poor minority neighborhoods.' The Brookings study was based on a comparison of home values to homeowner incomes in the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas, and it found that even when homeowners had similar incomes, black-owned homes were valued at 18% less than white-owned homes. The 100 metropolitan areas were home to 58% of all whites and 63% of all blacks in the country."

Finally, Brown describes that these studies are supported by significant research and that at bottom, the real estate market penalizes integration:

"Those conclusions are supported by a large body of research. Put simply, the market penalizes integration: The higher the percentage of blacks in the neighborhood, the less the home is worth, even when researchers control for age, social class, household structure, and geography." 

For those that argue that we live in a post-racial society, and that the election of President Obama has finally cleansed our nation of the lingering effects of slavery, Jim Crow, "separate but equal" and the discriminatory prison industrial complex, well, they have some explaining to do.

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