How Home Ownership Keeps Blacks Poorer Than Whites

By | December 10, 2012

The racial wealth gap has hit an all-time high while Barack Obama has been president. The median net worth of white households is now 20 times that of black households. Why?

Some argue that the gap is a current manifestation of a historical problem. Others say blacks are to blame. While I can’t eliminate the lingering effects of slavery and Jim Crow, or change stereotypes, I can highlight one area where blacks may be inadvertently contributing to the racial wealth gap: When most black people buy homes, we hurt ourselves economically.

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.

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. (Forbes)

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