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Race and Income Segregation


Racial Discrimination in the U.S. Housing and Mortgage Lending Market

Over 50 years ago, the Fair Housing Act was signed into law to address racial discrimination in the U.S. housing market. Evidence shows, however, that discrimination still persists in the housing sector. In a meta-analysis published in Race and Social Problems, IPR sociologist Lincoln Quillian and his colleagues review how racial discrimination has changed between 1976 and 2016. They analyzed data from 16 field experiments of housing discrimination and 19 observational studies of mortgage lending discrimination. In terms of housing discrimination, they discovered overt racial discrimination has sharply declined in responses to inquiries about housing and the availability of an advertised unit. When trained white auditors posed as prospective renters or home buyers to test for discriminatory practices, they still were offered more units when compared with African American ones. These trends are consistent in both the large audits conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and smaller audits conducted by researchers.  In examining the mortgage market, the researchers find that discrimination has not changed: Black and Hispanic borrowers are still more likely than white borrowers to be rejected when applying for a loan—and if approved for one, to receive a mortgage that costs more. The researchers argue that the subtle discrimination in housing serves to maintain residential segregation, and mortgage discrimination will continue to depress the home equity, and wealth accumulation, of black and Hispanic families. Thus, they argue that anti-discrimination enforcement is still necessary and should be increased “to ensure that all home seekers receive equal treatment regardless of their race or ethnic background.”

Racial Differences in Public Opinion on School Closures

In 2013, nearly 2,000 U.S. public schools were closed, following a federal government initiative to turn around 5,000 of the country’s lowest-performing schools. Many of these school closings were in cities with large minority populations. In a Journal of Urban Affairs article, IPR public policy expert Sally Nuamah looks at how attitudes toward school closings in Chicago differ by racial group. She constructs a dataset on school closings, including each school’s location and its number of free/reduced-price lunches, linking it to American Community Survey data and to parental responses from a 2013 survey on educational attitudes. She finds that a majority of Black and Latino parents surveyed held negative attitudes toward school closings. Whites are 50% more supportive of closures than Blacks, despite having fewer experiences with them. Living in a neighborhood with a school threatened for closure and earning less than $50,000 a year were also significant factors in whether someone held a negative attitude toward close schoolings. Nuamah notes that although Black students only made up 48% of students in the Chicago Public School system, school closings affected 88% of them. She argues that these findings have “implications for democracy responsiveness” and demonstrates that when policy attitudes are divided, the opinions of marginalized and affected groups are ignored.

Shifts in Political Power Shape Perception of Government

After Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans in 2005, the state of Louisiana took over most traditional public schools and they became charters. Although test scores rose, surveys of Black citizens in the city show that the majority do not perceive that their schools have improved, although a majority of White residents perceive that the schools are better post-Katrina. To account for the disparity in perception, Nuamah and her co-author analyze data from two surveys in 2011 and 2013 that included questions about the public schools. They discover that racial differences in perception of schools’ quality were related to shifts in power from local to state control of schools, rather than to differing levels of satisfaction with schools, partisanship, or education. Blacks’ perception that schools had not improved post-Katrina were positively related to returning public schools to local—and thus majority Black—control, especially among middle-class respondents. In explaining the results, the authors argue that despite apparent Black control of New Orleans’ local government in the years following the hurricane, in reality, Blacks were politically marginalized in the control of the public schools, and that the charter takeover of traditional public schools came at the cost of political disruption for Black residents.

Cultural Archipelagos and Immigrants’ Experiences

“Gayborhoods,” or gay-friendly residential enclaves in major cities such as Chicago’s Boystown or New York City’s Chelsea, have been a feature of urban life for decades. In an article for City & Community, sociology professor and IPR associate Héctor Carrillo responds to the theory that when those neighborhoods decline, they cause the creation of loose “cultural archipelagos,” or new, informal areas where different subgroups of LGBTQ people may cluster in cities. Carrillo critiques this idea by comparing it to the experience of LGBTQ immigrants, who have in the past gathered informally in areas like San Diego’s suburbs and South Bay without the prior existence of such gayborhoods. He writes that treating all such communities as outgrowths of traditional gayborhoods risks overlooking the complex social processes that lead to their formation—processes that can contain useful information about how subcultures manifest and express themselves. Carrillo says that further research about how LGBTQ immigrants related to the idea of an established gayborhood prior to their migration could expand our understanding of how they form and join communities in the United States.