Present disparities in homeownership by race and ethnicity help beget future disparities in homeownership by race and ethnicity

Differences in homeownership now contribute to differences later. Article one:

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American home buyers are older, whiter and wealthier than at any time in recent memory, with first-time buyers accounting for the smallest share of the market in 41 years, the National Association of Realtors found in its annual profile of home buyers and sellers.

White buyers accounted for 88 percent of home sales during the survey period, up from 82 percent during the same period a year earlier, reaching the highest level in 25 years, according to the association’s findings.

The new findings add weight to a hard truth that many young families have experienced as they struggle to save money to buy a home, competing in the most brutally competitive housing market in modern history: They have been elbowed out by buyers who have something they might never have — all cash…

“This is a feedback mechanism that can potentially supercharge wealth inequality in our economy,” said Austin Clemens, the director of economic measurement policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, who studies housing inequities. “It’s hitting younger people, it’s hitting lower income people. And we also find that this is hitting Hispanic and Black households especially hard.”

Article two:

Though loan denials for both Black and white applicants have slowed since the 2008 financial crisis, the gap in denial rates for Black and white people applying for home loans has widened significantly. Today, 15 percent of Black applicants are denied mortgages while 6 percent of white applicants are denied the home loans, according to a report by the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, an advocacy organization for Black real estate professionals.

The housing market remains persistently and disproportionately challenging for Black prospective home buyers, the report’s writers say, although Black homeownership has been inching forward since the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which made it illegal to discriminate based on race or religion in all aspects of home sales and rentals. The full report will be released on Wednesday.

Nearly 45 percent of Black households own their homes, compared with more than 74 percent of white households. But in 1970, the gap in homeownership between Black and white households was about 24 percent. Today, it is 30 percent.

The disparity in homeownership rates, as well as widespread appraisal discrimination, are compounding the massive income gap between Black and white households and thwarting Black Americans’ efforts to create generational wealth, the report notes. In 2020, the average white family held 12 times the wealth of the average Black family, and home equity is the largest source of wealth for both Black and white households, the report says.

If a potential buyer cannot purchase now, this has ramifications for years. And if someone could not purchase decades ago, this has implications right now.

Given the American emphasis on homeownership, even by presidents, I am a little surprised there has been limited public conversation about more assistance for first-time buyers. Are there ways on a broader scale to help people purchase a first home that helps increase equity later? With starter homes in low supply, help is needed. And addressing disparities now could help close gaps later.

Also noting here: good homes are needed even if the primary goal of owning a home is not to generate wealth, a relatively recent shift in how Americans view dwellings. Where people live is tied to all sorts of outcomes and experiences.

“Suburbs are now the most diverse areas in America”

Increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the suburbs can lead to tension:

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For a long time, the phrase suburban voter has been code for white voter. But suburbs are now among the most diverse spaces in American life, and tension is growing over who belongs in suburbia as NPR’s Sandhya Dirks reports.

The primary arena for conflict in this report involves politics:

DIRKS: Last year, white parents and some white folks who weren’t parents screamed at local school board meetings over teaching kids about racism or having diversity and inclusion programs. Most of the places where those fights flared were suburbs, and they were suburbs that are changing, suburbs that have grown more diverse. In some cases, like in Gwinnett County, they are also suburbs where Black people have started to get elected to local seats, like school boards.

KERNODLE: The difference between now and then is that we have power too.

DIRKS: Because as suburbs change, so does the power of the suburban vote.

This tension extends to numerous other areas including neighborhoods, housing, jobs, and schooling.

More broadly, this part of the process of “complex suburbia” where suburbs are changing. Some communities are changing faster than others, with these rates likely tied to social factors and patterns of resources and influence.

Why might suburban leaders head up legal challenge to IL law ending cash bail?

A lawsuit led by suburban officials challenges a new Illinois law in court:

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When more than half of Illinois’ state’s attorneys go to court in Kankakee County next month in a last-ditch effort to block the controversial SAFE-T Act, the proceedings will have a distinctly suburban flavor.

The offices of McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally and Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow have been chosen to serve as lead counsel in a lawsuit they and 61 of their peers have filed seeking to have the massive criminal justice reform bill ruled unconstitutional…

The state’s attorneys argue that violates several parts of the state constitution, including the Separation of Powers Clause by stripping judges of their full authority to detain defendants, set monetary bail and revoke bail. They also argue that a portion of the Act that gives police discretion to release defendants without bail on low-level offenses unlawfully takes that authority away from the courts…

The state’s attorneys argue that violates several parts of the state constitution, including the Separation of Powers Clause by stripping judges of their full authority to detain defendants, set monetary bail and revoke bail. They also argue that a portion of the Act that gives police discretion to release defendants without bail on low-level offenses unlawfully takes that authority away from the courts.

Suburban counties are not the only ones party to this lawsuit, but is it meaningful that they are leading the effort? A few general patterns scholars might point to:

  1. The image and ideology of suburbs suggests they are safe places relatively free of crime.
  2. Where does crime happen? It is viewed as a problem of cities and urban centers.
  3. The first two points are connected to long-term suburban patterns of exclusion by race/ethnicity and social class. Who commits crime? Not the typical suburbanite.
  4. Suburbs have a long history of fear of crime. And they act regularly in their suburban communities regarding crime, ranging from creating gated communities to supporting police efforts to choices about development and amenities.
  5. A suburban fear of crime is linked to particular political patterns and activity, including Nixon and the Republican Party’s “Southern strategy” to then-President Trump’s 2020 claim that the suburbs are under threat.

Put these factors together and suburban leadership on this issue may be no surprise.

More Americans now living in mixed neighborhoods, especially in suburbs

Data from the 2020 Census shows that more Americans live in neighborhoods where no one racial or ethnic group is more than 80% of the population:

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Back in 1990, 78 percent of White people lived in predominantly White neighborhoods, where at least 4 of every 5 people were also White. In the 2020 Census, that’s plunged to 44 percent.

Large pockets of segregation remain, but as America’s White population shrinks for the first time and Hispanic, Asian, Black and Native Americans fuel the nation’s growth, diverse neighborhoods have expanded from urban cores into suburbs that once were colored by a steady stream of White flight from inner cities…

More broadly, a new majority of all Americans, 56 percent, now live in mixed neighborhoods where neither White people nor non-Whites predominate – double the figure that lived in mixed neighborhoods in 1990, according to a Washington Post analysis of census data. By racial group, 56 percent of White Americans live in mixed neighborhoods, as do 55 percent of Hispanic Americans, 57 percent of Black people and 70 percent of Asian people…

Racially mixed neighborhoods continue to be less common in small towns and rural areas, and are increasing the most in the suburbs. Across large metro suburbs and medium metros, the share of people in racially mixed neighborhoods jumped by double digits over the past decade to 59 percent.

This is part of the emergence of complex suburbia where racial and ethnic populations have changed in recent decades. There still are predominantly-white neighborhoods but there are also more neighborhoods with different mixes of residents.

If people are now more likely to live near people of different racial and ethnic groups, what might this lead to? The analysis mentions backlash toward immigration. Could it also lead to positive change? How exactly is life playing out in different kinds of neighborhoods? How much does social class and the particular character and histories of a place shape outcomes in addition to these racial and ethnic changes?

Two charts showing the growing racial and ethnic diversity in the American suburbs

William Frey of the The Brookings Institutions analyzes 2020 Census data and shows the suburbs are increasingly diverse in terms of race and ethnicity. One chart:

The percent of Asian Americans, Latinos or Hispanics, and Blacks living in the suburbs has increased every decade since the 1980s. The percent of whites living in the suburbs has stayed stable.

A second chart looks at the racial and ethnic changes across different kinds of suburbs:

While the first chart showed increasing diversity in suburbs in general, this one helps show that this racial and ethnic diversity is not evenly distributed across kinds of suburbs. Even as the percent of white residents is decreasing in all kinds of suburbs, high-density suburbs have the most racial and ethnic diversity followed by mature suburbs.

Frey sums up his analysis this way:

Among those of a certain age, the term “suburban America” conjures up the image of mostly white, middle-class, politically conservative developments, differing sharply from a more racially diverse urban America. But the 2020 census places an exclamation point on the fact that suburbs now reflect the nation’s demographics, with respect to racial make-up and most likely on related dimensions of class and politics.

The growth of America’s suburbs embodies the nation’s population growth, accompanied by greater diversity due to the in-migration of new and long-standing minorities from nearby cities, from other parts of the country, and from abroad, as well as a rising multicultural youth population as families of color—like their earlier white counterparts—find the suburbs an ideal destination for raising children and forming new communities. From this perspective, the suburbs, perhaps more than anywhere else, are symbolic of America’s rising diversity. 

Complex suburbia continues.

New “Unvarnished” exhibit on Naperville’s exclusionary past

A new project from Naper Settlement shows how Naperville – and several other communities – excluded people for decades:

https://www.unvarnishedhistory.org/local-spotlights/naperville-illinois/

For more than 80 years, Naperville was a sundown town. After working in a household, farm or factory during the day, people of color had to be gone from Naperville by sundown…

A historical look at how diversity in the city and five other U.S. towns grew despite decades historic discriminatory practices and segregation is featured in a free online exhibit spearheaded by Naper Settlement and the Historical Society of Naperville.

“Unvarnished: Housing Discrimination in the Northern and Western United States,” found at UnvarnishedHistory.org, was developed through a $750,000 Institute of Museum and Library Services Museum Leadership grant. The Naperville historical museum and five other museums and cultural organizations collaborated from 2017 to 2022 to research and present their community’s history of exclusion…

“It is our hope that this project will act as a model and inspire other communities to research, share and reflect upon their own history. It is through this process that we are able to engage with the totality of history to better understand today and guide our decision-making for the future,” she said.

In doing research on Naperville and two other nearby suburbs, I had uncovered some of what is detailed in this exhibit. However, the local histories of the community rarely addressed any of this. Instead, they focused on the positive moments for white residents, typically connected to growth, progress, and notable members of the community.

Such an exhibit suggests a willingness for Naperville and other communities to better grapple with pasts built on privileging some and keeping others out. The history of many American suburbs include exclusion by race, ethnicity, and social class. This could happen through explicit regulations and ordinances, through regular practices, or through policies and actions not explicitly about race, ethnicity, or class but with clear outcomes for different groups.

As noted in the last paragraph above, hopefully these efforts do not end with past history but also help communities consider current and future patterns. For example, decisions about development – like what kind of housing is approved – influence who can live in a community.

Estimate of over 1 million Americans displaced by highway construction

As the United States constructed highways starting in the twentieth century, how many residents were displaced? Here are some numbers:

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The Times found that more than 200,000 people nationwide have lost their homes because of federal road projects during that time, and that some of the country’s largest recent highway expansions, including in California, have forced out residents in Black and Latino neighborhoods at disproportionately high rates. And that’s in addition to the more than 1 million people pushed out during the initial period of freeway building in the mid-20th century via routes that often targeted Black communities for demolition.

That is a lot of people moved just for highways. In addition to affecting particular groups at higher rates, highways broke through established neighborhoods with existing ways of life.

But, the era of highway construction through certain neighborhoods started facing more resistance decades ago. Jane Jacobs was involved in a movement against a highway that would have cut through the middle of Manhattan. Neighborhoods throughout the United States successfully fought against highways. And some of the highways that once plowed through neighborhoods were changed or removed.

This does not mean highways are on the way out. However, it does mean that constructing a new highway or widening a highway in densely settled locations is not a foregone conclusion.

More research on race and space from sociologist Elijah Anderson

Sociologist Elijah Anderson continues his study of race in spaces with a new book. Here is part of an excerpt of that work:

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When an anonymous Black person enters the white space, often the people there immediately try to make sense of him or her – to determine “who that is”, or to figure out the nature of the person’s business and whether they need to be concerned. When the Black person is unknown, stereotypes can rule perceptions, creating a situation that can estrange the Black person. In these circumstances, almost any Black person can experience distance, especially a young Black male – not as a measure of his merit as a person but because of his Black skin and its indication of “outsider” status in the white space. Thus, such a Black person is burdened with a deficit of credibility, especially in comparison with their white counterparts.

Strikingly, a Black person’s deficit may be minimized or tentatively overcome by a performance, a negotiation, or what some Blacks refer to derisively as a “dance”, through which individual Blacks may be inclined to show white people and others that ghetto stereotypes do not apply to them personally; in effect, they perform for credibility or for acceptance. This performance can be as deliberate as dressing well and speaking in an educated way or as simple as producing an ID or a driver’s license in situations in which this would never be demanded of whites…

In the minds of many of their detractors, to scrutinize and stop Black people is to prevent crime and protect the neighborhood. Thus, for the Black person, particularly young males, virtually every public encounter results in a degree of scrutiny that a “normal” white person would certainly not need to endure.

A more subtle but critical version of this kind of profiling occurs in the typical workplace. From the janitor to a middle-level manager, Black people, until they have established themselves, live under the tyranny of the command performance. Around the office building, the Black male worker comes to be known publicly as “the Black guy in my building”, and if there are a few such “Black guys” working there who “roam” the premises, white workers at times confuse one with another, occasionally misidentifying the person by name. Given such racial ambiguity, the string of white people standing in line to witness the Black person’s performance, or “dance”, may encourage those who were once approving or convinced to demand an encore. Thus, as long as the Black person is present in the white space, he or she is likely to be “on”, performing before a highly judgmental but distant audience.

While I have not read this forthcoming book, this strikes me as a companion work of sorts to The Cosmopolitan Canopy where Anderson examined spaces where people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds could regularly interact. In those relatively rare settings, people could encounter each other and generally enjoy it.

In contrast, Anderson now highlights the ways in which Black people are not welcomed in numerous spaces. This is not just about abstract spheres in society; this is about physical arrangements and the ways that race matters for who can be there.

There is a lot to explore here and I look forward to the book. In a typical city or suburb, how much space is primarily for whites and policed in the ways Anderson cites above?

Data on whether Americans are moving due to politics

NPR reports on Americans moving to new locations because of politics. Here is some of the evidence presented:

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Residents have been fleeing states like California with high taxes, expensive real estate and school mask mandates and heading to conservative strongholds like Idaho, Tennessee and Texas.

More than one of every 10 people moving to Texas during the pandemic was from California, according to the Texas Real Estate Research Center at Texas A&M University. Most came from Southern California. Florida was the second biggest contributor of new Texans…

Political scientist Larry Sabato posted an analysis on Thursday that shows how America’s “super landslide” counties have grown over time.

Of the nation’s total 3,143 counties, the number of super landslide counties — where a presidential candidate won at least 80% of the vote — has jumped from 6% in 2004 to 22% in 2020…

Bishop’s book explains how Americans sorted themselves by politics, geography, lifestyle and economics over the preceding three decades. Sitting in a Central Texas café, Bishop says that trend has only intensified in the 14 years since the book’s publication.

I have read a lot of similar stories in recent years. All of this data, at face value, seems to make some sense: population flows from one set of states to another, the concentration of politically similar people in certain locations, and an ongoing sorting by politics.

At the same time, I am not completely convinced that it is politics driving moves. How often does a person, family, or business move solely because of politics or politics is the clear #1 reason? Politics might factor in an ultimate decision but I suspect jobs, retirement, and the locations of family are more often prime movers and/or large factors. Plus, the organization or sorting or residents has been going on for decades due to race/ethnicity (see the example of the suburbs) and social class (again, the suburbs). And could we consider how political patterns are related to race and class?

We can always find at least a few people who will describe moves undertaken to be closer to their political allies. I am not sure we are at the point where many are moving primarily or solely because of politics.

Deaths and COVID-19 by groups, communities in Cook County

COVID-19 is big in its effects but I am surprised we have not seen more coverage all over the place about who specifically is affected more within regions and big cities. WBEZ looks at recent data in Cook County, Illinois:

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In the earliest weeks of the pandemic, Chicago’s Black residents were dying of COVID-19 at alarming rates. More recently, in the few weeks since the arrival of the omicron variant, Black Chicagoans are again dying at much higher rates than their Asian, Latino and white counterparts, shows a WBEZ analysis of data on COVID-19 related deaths from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.

Since Dec. 7, 2021, the date when the state’s first omicron case was found in Chicago, the city’s Black residents are dying at rates four times higher than Asians, three times higher than Latinos and nearly two times higher than white residents, according to WBEZ’s analysis. A total of 97 Black Chicagoans died of COVID-19 during the seven-day period ending Jan. 9, 2022 — more than at any point since May 11, 2020.

Black Chicagoans aren’t the only demographic that has been particularly vulnerable since the arrival of omicron. Older suburban Cook County residents have also seen their seven-day COVID-19 death totals reach levels not witnessed in more than a year. According to WBEZ’s analysis, a total of 181 suburban Cook County residents 60 years and older died from COVID-19 during the week ending Jan. 9, 2022. That’s the highest seven-day total for that group since Dec. 24, 2020…

While several communities on Chicago’s South and West sides have been hit hard by COVID-19, the pandemic’s death toll has also weighed heavily in various parts of suburban Cook County. WBEZ’s analysis finds some of the county’s highest COVID-19 death rates in parts of northwest suburban Niles, Norridge and Lincolnwood, southwest suburban Palos Heights, Chicago Ridge, Oak Lawn and Bridgeview; and south suburban Hazel Crest, Markham, Harvey, Robbins and Country Club Hills.

I am sure there are already and will continue to be many academic studies that examine these differences. Even as COVID-19 has impacted many, the impacts of COVID-19 are not distributed evenly. It arrived at a time of inequality, including in health outcomes and experiences, and it exacerbated issues.

At least in the Chicago area, data on this topic is available online. For example, I have tried to keep track of the disparate effects of COVID-19 in DuPage County where there are significant differences across racial and ethnic groups, age groups, and communities (earlier post here).