Housing Segregation

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Housing segregation is the practice of denying African American or other minority groups equal access to housing through the process of misinformation, denial of realty and financing services, and racial steering.

History of housing discrimination[edit]

Legislation[edit]

The National Housing Act of 1934

In 1934 the practice of redlining neighborhoods came into existence through the National Housing Act of 1934.[1] This practice, also known as mortgage discrimination, began when the federal government and the newly formed Federal Housing Administration allowed the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation to create “residential security maps,” outlining the level of security for real-estate investments in 239 cities around the United States. On these maps, high-risk areas were outlined in red. Many minority neighborhoods were redlined in these maps, meaning that banks would deny all mortgage capital to people living within them. This contributed to the decay of many of these neighborhoods because the lack of loans for buying or making repairs on the homes made it difficult for these neighborhoods to attract and keep families. Many urban historians point to redlining as one of the main factors for urban disinvestment and the decline of central cities in the middle decades of the 20th century.[2]

The Housing Act of 1937

This piece of legislation occurred during the New Deal era and provided the basis for future public housing programs. This act allowed for the creation of around 160,000 units of public housing. Most of these units were made to alleviate the housing difficulties of the poor and working class suffering from the Great Depression.[3] Additionally, this public housing program allowed for the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) to provide various monetary funds to local housing authorities to aid with the building and development of these units. Despite providing low budget housing options, this act created greater racial segregation in housing because the majority of the poor population at the time consisted of minorities.[4]

The GI Bill (1944)

At the end of World War II, the GI Bill furthered segregation practices by keeping African Americans out of European American neighborhoods, showing another side to African American housing discrimination. When millions of GIs returned home from overseas, they took advantage of the “Servicemen’s Readjustment Act,” or the GI Bill.[5] This important document was signed in 1944 by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and gave veterans education and training opportunities, guaranteed loans for home, farm, or business, job finding assistance, and unemployment pay of $20 a week for up to 52 weeks if a veteran could not find a job.[6] This law allowed millions of U.S. soldiers to purchase their first homes with inexpensive mortgages, which meant the huge growth of suburbs and the birth of the ideal of a suburban lifestyle.

African Americans were met with discrimination when trying to purchase a home in the overwhelmingly European American neighborhoods. The realtors would not show these houses to African Americans, and when they did, they would try and talk them out of buying the home. This discrimination was based on the fact that realtors believed they would be losing future business by dealing or listing with African Americans, and that it would be unethical to sell a house in a European American neighborhood to African Americans because it would drive the property values of the surrounding houses down.[7]

Both redlining and discrimination through the GI Bill relegated most African Americans to a concentrated area within the city, so the declining property values and the higher crime rates could be kept in a contained area. The relegation of African Americans to the neighborhoods that were receiving no support due to redlining practices was a self-fulfilling prophecy that created the high crime slums that the city was afraid of.[8]

The Fair Housing Act (1968)

The overt discriminatory practices of refusal of sale and loans continued unabated until at least 1968, when the Fair Housing Act was passed. After this act was passed, outright refusal to sell property to African Americans became rare, given that that behavior could lead to prosecution under the Fair Housing Law.[8] The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is charged with administering and enforcing fair housing laws. Any person who believes that they have faced housing discrimination based on their race can file a fair housing complaint.

The most comprehensive federal fair housing act of its time, this piece of legislation mandated fair housing as a national policy and restricted discriminatory practices. Specifically, discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin was prohibited in the rental, sale, financing, and brokerage of housing or housing services. However, this act did not give the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) a lot of enforcing power. HUD was only allowed to mediate housing discrimination disputes between parties. They did not have the power to file lawsuits or take definitive legal action.[9]

President Nixon and HUD secretary George Romney talk

Nixon's Fair Housing Policy (1971)

During his presidential term, Nixon's federal housing policy undermined the tenants of the Fair Housing Act. His policy acknowledged that federal law requires nondiscriminatory practices in federal housing matters but did not provide presidential support. Nixon declared that government could not force suburban desegregation or economic/racial integration. In doing so, he secured many suburban votes but further exacerbated the issue of housing inequality by not supporting subsidized housing programs to help desegregation.[9]

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974

This act provided protection against discrimination from creditors. It stated that creditors could not discriminate against applicants based on race, sex, marital status, religion, ethnicity or age. Designed to supplement the Fair Housing Act in specific forms of housing discrimination, this piece of legislation offered more protection against discrimination in lending practices.[9]

The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975

Like the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974, this piece of legislation was also designed to supplement the Fair Housing Act in specific areas of housing discrimination. This act protected applicants from discrimination through lending institutions by requiring that any financial institution providing federally related mortgage loan disclose data annually. This included reports of the amount and location of loans related to federal housing (by census tract or ZIP code). The purpose of this was to prevent loaning discrimination in certain localities.[9]

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 required banks to apply the same anti-discriminatory guidelines to their lending criteria in all circumstances. These acts did not completely stop discriminatory practices, however. The discrimination moved into more subtle techniques, including racial steering and misinformation given to African American prospective buyers. Although these laws exist in theory, they have not accomplished their goal of eradicating discrimination based on race in the housing market. Audits of the housing market in Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, and many other major metropolitan areas have shown discrimination toward African Americans continuing into the 80s, long after the anti-discrimination laws were passed.[8]

Sign with American flag "We want white tenants in our white community," directly opposite the Sojourner Truth homes, a new U.S. federal housing project in Detroit, Michigan. A riot was caused by white neighbors' attempts to prevent Negro tenants from moving in.

Trends by minority group[edit]

Residential segregation is typically measured by evenness and exposure. Evenness is defined as the relative dispersion of a certain racial group in a metropolitan area whereas exposure is defined as how much a member of a certain racial group is exposed to a member of another racial group.[10][11] In general, the number of integrated neighborhoods have continued to increase since the passing of the Fair Housing Act in 1968. In addition, the number of exclusively white neighborhoods have been decreasing.[10] Although there has been an increase of a minority population presence in suburbs, residential segregation continues to persist. On average, it is more likely for minority groups to be exposed to mixed neighborhoods than white populations[10][11] Residential segregation is not limited to the private housing market. Discriminatory practices also take place within the federal public housing system.[3]

African American

Overall, in the period from 1980-2000, residential segregation between the black and white population has decreased at a greater rate than other minority groups.[11] However, the African American population, currently the second largest minority group in the United States, still experiences the greatest residential segregation compared to other minority groups.[10] The older industrial cities of the Midwest and Northeast, experience the highest levels of black-white residential segregation, while the newer metropolitan areas of the South are experiences lesser levels of black-white residential segregation. The presence of a black population in the suburbs continues to increase with 40% of African Americans currently living in the suburbs.[11]

Hispanic

Due to immigration laws over the past decades, the Hispanic population has grown exponentially, making Hispanics the largest minority group in the United States. After African Americans, Hispanics experience the second highest level of residential segregation. From 1980-2000, the level of neighborhood dissimilarity and isolation increased between the Hispanic population and the white population. Although around 50% of Hispanics live in the suburban area, it is projected that with increasing immigration, the divide between Hispanic and white populations will continue to persist in residential areas.[11]

Asian

Due to immigration laws over the past decades, the Asian population has grown considerably, making Asians the third largest minority group in the United States. Similar to the Hispanic minority group, the Asian minority group experiences high levels of isolation and dissimilarity to their white counterparts. From 1980-2000, these levels have only increased. Although 55% of Asians currently live in the suburban area, their level of isolation from their white counterparts becomes more prominent despite residential mobility.[11]

Causes of Housing Segregation[edit]

Neighborhood disinvestment[edit]

The relegation of African Americans to certain contained neighborhoods continues today. The cycle of neighborhood disinvestment followed by gentrification and dislocation of the minority has made it difficult for African Americans to establish themselves, build equity, and try to break out into suburban neighborhoods. If they have the means to relocate, the neighborhoods they relocate to are most likely populated by European American people who support open housing laws in theory, but become uncomfortable and relocate if they are faced with a rising Black population in their own neighborhood. This white flight creates an overwhelmingly African American neighborhood, and then disinvestment begins anew. All of these subtle discriminatory practices leave the metropolitan African American population with few options, forcing them to remain in disinvested neighborhoods with rising crime, gang activity, and dilapidated housing.[8]

Neighborhood disinvestment is a systematic withdrawal of capital and neglect of public services by the city. Public services may include schools; building, street, and park maintenance; garbage collection and transportation. Absentee landlordism and mortgage redlining also characterize disinvestment. As redlining prevents households from owning, they have no choice but to rent from landlords that neglect property and charge high rent.[7] These factors allow the devalorization cycle to occur in a neighborhood, eventually leading to the reclamation and transformation of the neighborhood, uprooting the poor residents who have no equity to use for relocation.[7]

A deeper look into disinvestment in the community can be termed devalorization. This is when neighborhood decline is analyzed by emphasizing the profit taking of realtors, bankers, and speculators which systematically reduces the worth or value of housing.[7] The devalorization of a neighborhood begins to occur when the city decides to begin disinvesting in it, and the disproportionate influx of minorities shift the neighborhood from mostly live-in owners to absentee landlords. These landlords buy up the houses during white flight from the neighborhood and rent them to the minorities moving in for a high price. In Albina, this process was shown through intensive white flight from the neighborhood, and large redevelopment projects that destroyed the heart of the African American community for the remodeling of a veteran’s hospital. This project relocated many African Americans into an even smaller area, creating an overcrowded, volatile environment. Most of the community that survived did not own their homes, and the absentee landlords neglected to make repairs on their properties. The relocation of so many African Americans from southern Albina because of the hospital project caused more white flight on the northern side of Albina, creating more opportunities for landlords use the tactic of blockbusting, or using the fear of racial turnover and property value decline to convince homeowners to sell at below-market prices, allowing the landlords to then inflate the cost of the property and extort the new African American home buyers.[7][12]

Socioeconomic status[edit]

One theory of the cause of residential segregation is the difference in income between minority groups and their white counterparts. The basis of this theory stems from purchasing power: the higher the income, the more likely minority groups are to move to better neighborhoods which in turn results in more integrated neighborhoods.[3][4][10][11] In other words, there seems to be an inverse relationship between a minority group's socioeconomic status and the minority group's level of residential segregation.[4] Many argue that residential segregation occurs because minority groups, particularly immigrants, do not have the wealth or income to purchase homes in more affluent and predominantly white neighborhoods.[3] Although there is a definite relationship between socioeconomic status and residential segregation, the effect of this relationship is different between minority groups.[4][10][11]

In terms of location, poverty stricken communities tend to reside in the inner city while affluent communities tend to reside in the suburbs.[4] In addition, better neighborhoods contain better educational services and easier access to various occupations. This spatial and economic segregation further perpetuates residential segregation.[10] Across all minority groups, there is an residential gap based on income. Residential segregation between the rich and the poor, occurring at different rates, occurs across the board.[10]

African Americans and Hispanics, compared to their white counterparts, experience a greater difference in income, education, and occupation levels. On the other hand, Asians experience a lesser difference in terms of income, education, and occupation levels when compared to their white counterparts.[11] These factors, education and occupation, influence income and purchasing power of an individual. For African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics, higher income resulted in less segregation from their white counterparts whereas lower income resulted in greater segregation from their white counterparts. However, this increase in socioeconomic status resulted in a greater decrease in segregation for Hispanics and Asians and a lesser decrease in segregation for African Americans suggesting that socioeconomic status alone cannot explain residential segregation.[10][11]

Spatial assimilation and immigration[edit]

Recent immigration reforms and policy have cause an influx of immigrants from Latin America and Asia.[4][10] The spatial assimilation theory states that immigrants are more likely to experience residential segregation because of a variety of factors such as social networks, family, income, and cultural preference. Upon moving to a new country, immigrants are more likely to relocate to an area where they have feel comfortable and accepted. In addition, their income may only allow them to occupy spaces that are more ethnically diverse.[11] The three generation model states that over time, as the children of immigrants become more acculturated, they begin to disperse geographically and assimilating themselves in suburban neighborhoods. Therefore, there is a correlation between residential segregation and the intergenerational process of assimilation.[13]

The acculturation of immigrant children also relates to socioeconomic status. As they become more acculturated to the customs of the host country, they become more comfortable with the cultural norms and improve their speaking abilities. A higher socioeconomic status allows them to disperse from the ethnically concentrated community and move into neighborhoods with better services and quality housing. This process across generations eventually results in the continued desegregation of more affluent, predominantly white, suburban neighborhoods.[11]

Among all minority groups, foreign-born immigrants experience greater segregation from whites than native-born groups. However, assimilation varies among minority groups. Overall, Hispanic-white segregation is higher than Asian-white segregation. Black-white segregation is the highest when comparing all minority groups. New immigrants tend to experience higher levels of segregation than immigrants that have lived in the host country for a while. Over time, Asians tend to experience less migration out of their community compared to their Hispanic and African American counterparts.[11]

Effects of Housing Segregation[edit]

Relocation[edit]

Once their old neighborhood has been gentrified, many of the residents are forced to relocate, if they have not already done so. When hunting for a new residence, African Americans will more than likely encounter discrimination on some level. Audits performed by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development and a later Housing Development Study suggest that if realtors have a chance to discriminate, they usually do.[8] These studies analyzed the amount of cases where whites were given more information about available units or financing options or shown extra units in proportion to African Americans. The results showed that whites were systematically favored for both rental and sales units throughout metropolitan areas in the United States. Racial steering was also taken into account during these audits, and it was shown through the results that African Americans were shown homes in areas that had more minorities, lower home values, or lower median incomes that the homes that were shown to European Americans, even if their economic position was the same. It was shown that about one in every three encounters, African Americans were systematically steered to these non-European American neighborhoods.[8]

This segregation is not self-imposed. That is, African Americans do not prefer to live in neighborhoods that are overwhelmingly Black.[8] Survey evidence from a Detroit Area Survey from 1976 shows that African Americans strongly favor the desegregation of the United States, with the overall ideal neighborhood being 50% black and 50% white. Whites, on the other hand, favor neighborhood composition that is dominated by whites. In the same survey, about one-quarter of the whites surveyed said they would feel uncomfortable if their neighborhood exceeded 8% Black. Once the neighborhood reached 21% Black, almost half of the whites surveyed said they would feel uncomfortable.[8]

Unequal Living Standards[edit]

Behavioral effects

One of the important social effects on the individual that results from residential segregation is the influence on behavior. Segregated communities tend to slow the rate of assimilation, especially in the ability to speak English.[13] The ability to speak English and assimilate has been shown to result in the increased rate of desecration in communities.[11] Another behavioral influence of residential segregation is the social networks created. Friendships and marriages tend to occur at a higher probability among people in close proximities than people who are spatially separate.[13] A negative behavioral influence of residential segregation is the perpetuation of violence. Specifically with gang activity, the higher the level of segregation, the greater the density of altercations between rival gangs.[13]

USDA Food Desert Locator Map

Health

Many studies have shown that racial or ethnic minority neighborhoods are disproportionally affected by health issues related to the environment, such as a lack of healthy food options, a lack of available pharmacies, and an increased number of advertisements for alcohol and tobacco.[14][15] In addition, there has been a trend over the past few years of a concentration of ethnic minorities in low-income urban neighborhoods.[15] One of the factors associated with this rise in urban, low-income neighborhoods is residential segregation.[14] Many of these urban, low-income neighborhoods experience unequal accessibility to services compared to their sub-urban counterparts, which often results in a unhealthy food environment.[14][15]

One of the main reasons for the increasing presence of unhealthy food environments in these neighborhoods is the emergence of food deserts. Several theories regarding the rise of food deserts in low-income neighborhoods are circulating in the literature. One of the prevailing theories states that food deserts resulted from the development of larger supermarkets in affluent areas and the closure of small, independent groceries stores that could not compete economically. Another theory states that supermarket development shifted spatially with the rise of income segregation. As more the more affluent middle-class moved to the suburbs, many inner city grocery stores closed from lack of business.[14] Another prevailing theory is the idea of supermarket redlining, the unwillingness of supermarkets to open stores in the inner city due to various economic reasons.[15]

This overall development of unhealthy food environments in low-income urban neighborhoods affects the development of health in the community members.[15] The lack of healthy food options forces these residents to purchase and consume energy dense food options such as meals from fast-food restaurants.[14] These residents are also forced to purchase highly processed foods because of the lack of fresh food options. In addition, food at independently owned grocery stores are often 10-60% more expensive than food offered at large chain supermarkets.[15]

Poverty[edit]

Housing segregation affects the development of concentrated areas of poverty, especially among racial minorities groups.[16][17] Housing segregation interacts with existing poverty rates among minority groups, especially African Americans and Hispanics, to perpetuate the cycle of poor people moving into concentrated areas of poverty. These concentrated areas of poverty often experience a lack of public services and infrastructure. Studies have shown that these residential areas often have less employment opportunities, unequal schooling environments, and increased health risks. These factors combine to perpetuate poverty and prevent social and spatial mobility. The lack of employment opportunities come in many different forms such as decreased accessibility to jobs because of transportation or unavailability of jobs due to location. The result of unequal economic opportunities is the increase in income segregation. This further perpetuates poverty because low-income residents experience higher rent burden which forces them to accept low quality housing.[17] This cycle of poverty also extends between generations. This means that children living in low-income neighborhoods are more likely to experience poverty and the same living standards as their parents' generation.[18]

In addition to income segregation, the affects of housing segregation on the development of concentrated areas of poverty are also associated with class and racial segregation. Class segregation plays a role in the concentration of poverty areas in that affluent classes of society have a desire to spatially separate themselves from the less fortune, poverty-stricken class. As a result, they move towards more affluent neighborhoods leaving the poor concentrated in a certain area. Racial segregation also plays a role in the concentration of poverty areas. In fact, the degree of housing segregation due to racial differences is greater than the degree of housing segregation due to class differences. The three factors of income, class, and racial segregation can explain the increasing concentration of poverty in certain areas.[16] All three of these factors can be associated with the causes and effects of housing segregation.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ see: redlining
  2. ^ Redlining in Philadelphia Hiller, Amy. http://cml.upenn.edu/redlining/
  3. ^ a b c d Huttman, Elizabeth D.; Blauw, Wim; Saltman, Juliet (1991). Urban Housing Segregation of Minorities in Western Europe and the United States. Durham and London: Duke University Press. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f Momeni, Jamshid A. (1986). Race, ethnicity, and minority housing in the United States. Greenwood Press. 
  5. ^ see: GI Bill
  6. ^ The GI Bill http://www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe40s/life_20.html
  7. ^ a b c d e Bleeding Albina: A History of Community Disinvestment, 1940-2000 Gibson, Karen J. Transforming Anthropology, Volume 15 Number 1, 3-25 (2007)
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h The Continuing Causes of Segregation Massey, Douglas, and Nancy Denton. American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993.
  9. ^ a b c d Lamb, Charles M. (2005). Housing Segregation in Suburban America since 1960. Cambridge University Press. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Briggs, Xavier de Souza (2005). The Geography of Opportunity. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Iceland, John (2009). Where We Live Now: Immigration and Race in the United States. University of California Press. 
  12. ^ See: Blockbusting
  13. ^ a b c d Boal, Frederick W. (2000). Ethnicity and Housing. Ashgate Publishing Company. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Walker, Renee; Keane, Christopher; Burke, Jessica (2010). "Disparities and Access to Healthy Food in the United States: A Review of Food Deserts Literature". Health and Place. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f Eisenhaur, Elizabeth (December 10, 2001). "In Poor Health: Supermarket Redlining and Urban Nutrition". GeoJournal. 
  16. ^ a b Massey, Douglas (2004). Race, Poverty, and Domestic Policy. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 173–187. 
  17. ^ a b c Danzinger, Sheldon H.; Haveman, Robert H. (2001). Understanding Poverty. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. 
  18. ^ Sharkey, Patrick (2013). Stuck in Place: Urban Neighborhoods and the End of Progress Toward Racial Equality. The University of Chicago Press. pp. 1–23. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dianne Harris, Little White House: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

External links[edit]