Chart of the Day: US Homeownership by Race 1994 – 2009

There was a fascinating post the other day on Matthew Kahn’s excellent Environmental and Urban Economics blog that detailed some counter-intuitive data about racial inequality in the US. One of the charts seems fitting for this site:


This is one of a few charts that Kahn uses to illustrate that, despite everything, the gap in racial equality has been slowly narrowing, at least when averaged out across the US. That said, Minnesota ranks particularly poorly on measures  like this. And when you’re comparing today’s problems to the racial inequality of the 60s and 70s, improvement is a low bar. So don’t get complacent.

(PS. This kind of data is one reason that “renters” is often a code word for race in urban conversations.)

5 thoughts on “Chart of the Day: US Homeownership by Race 1994 – 2009

  1. ClaireB

    Hmmm, is my math wrong? I’m actually seeing rising inequality.

    Comparing non-hispanic white (NHW) and african american (AA) between 1994 and 2009:
    70 – 42.5 = 27.5
    In 1994, 27.5% more of NHW own houses than AA.
    75 – 46 = 29
    In 2009, 29% more of NHW own houses than AA.
    This is an increased gap of 1.5% between the 1994 and 2009.

    Comparing the year with the smallest gap, about 2004:
    In 2004, the gap narrowed only half a percentage point from 1994. Is that really progress in 10 years, especially if that progress was completely gone in the following year (2005)?

    This chart, on top of the recent state-sanctioned violence and racism against African Americans in the US, reflects that things aren’t getting better.

    1. Bill LindekeBill Lindeke Post author

      Valid points. Interesting data nonetheless. 2004 stands out as an outlier.

      I suggest clicking on the link and commenting, and I’m guessing that Kahn was thinking more broadly about white v. non-white trends. But I’m not defending his conclusions. I agree with you, pretty much.

    2. Nathanael

      FWIW, I think things are getting less racist…

      “on top of the recent state-sanctioned violence and racism against African Americans in the US,”

      Out-of-control cops are also shooting up elderly Korean women (LA), and assaulting a white male 60-something JUDGE (Thomas Raffaele in NYC). And getting away with it.

      So, um, probably less racist, but not in a good way.

      Something similar is happening in housing: now it’s not just black people being discriminated against, it’s all poor and lower-middle-class people! Less racist, but…not in a good way.

  2. Dan

    This is where, in my opinion, the race equality people start to become racist themselves. Using this chart to determine race equality implies that owning a house is what everyone wants (or should want)

    The reason you think this is because you’re white, that’s how you define success, so you assume everyone must be the same as you. That is racist. In reality, different cultures, different age groups, etc. have different “American Dream’s.” We need to start to recognize and embrace our differences instead of trying to make everyone the same. FYI – There are plenty of white people who could get a house but have zero interest in owning a house and prefer renting.

    Are there black people that want a house and can’t get a house because they can’t get a mortgage? ABSOLUTELY. Are there white people in that exact same boat? ABSOLUTELY. Show me how those numbers compare, and then we can talk about race inequality. My GUESS is that the data would show that a black man who makes 25k can’t get any better (or worse) of a mortgage than the white man who makes 25k. The bank’s calculation doesn’t take race into account – they want to make money (interest) from as many people as they can. And are there isolated incidents, of course. But isolated incidents do not equal race inequality as a country.

    Sorry if this comment sounded rude, it wasn’t meant to be – I’m honestly just sick of people looking at the race issue like it’s so clear cut. If the solutions were easy, they’d be done and the problems would be fixed. Making claims like this only makes the real problems and solutions harder to find.

  3. Nathanael

    Regarding homeownership, the history of the post-Soviet states is instructive. In the Soviet era, obviously, nobody owned a house, they were all property of the people, comrade! During the privatization mania, everyone was given the house or apartment (/condo) they lived in, free and clear.

    Since then, as the 99% has gotten more impoverished, the ownership rate has been dropping and dropping; more and more people are renting or had to borrow against their houses to make ends meet.

    Capitalism, without progressive taxes, will automatically turn the majority of people into renters or mortgagees by impoverishing them, while money accumulates in a few people (the “1%”). This is why, in the 1930s, we had a New Deal where the 1% were taxed and the money redistributed to help the 99%. Unfortunately, large portions of the New Deal were dismantled starting in the 1980s….

    Here in the US, the percentage of people who actually own their houses outright is close to nil. Most people’s “owned” houses are owned by banks and being paid for on the installment system, basically, thanks to the mortgage.

    I happen to actually own my home so I’m acutely aware of the difference; you save a fortune by actually owning outright rather than paying mortgage interest and fees. But generally only the wealthy can do this, so this is another way the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

    Obviously, in this country, black people have a history of being impoverished due to slavery and racism in the past. The fact that poor people are made poorer by an unforgiving casino-capitalist system perpetuates past inequalities. And that’s one of the things you’re seeing here.

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