Closing the Wealth Gap: A Review of Racial and Ethnic Inequalities in Homeownership

Homeownership plays an important role in the socioeconomic well-being of Americans. Despite recent major losses in wealth due to the subprime market crash, home equity remains the largest source of wealth for the average American family. A marker of class status, owning one’s home provides access to neighborhoods with the best schools, quality public services, and lowest crime. This article demonstrates that minorities have not had the same access to homeownership that Whites have, and this contributes to continuing socioeconomic disparities between Whites and minorities. This article explores the homeownership experience of Blacks – including African-Americans, Caribbeans, and Africans – Hispanics, and Asians in the United States relative to non-Hispanic Whites. Minorities rely heavily on homeownership and home equity as the key component of their wealth and remain less likely than Whites to hold alternative forms of investment such as stocks. The role that homeownership plays in perpetuating intergenerational wealth disparities between Whites and minorities is discussed as are challenges to minority homeownership such as the pervasiveness of risky mortgage products. Exploring the racial gap in homeownership is fundamental to understanding racial inequalities and formulating strategies and policies to help close such disparities. This article concludes with suggestions for future research.

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