Home Business The Historical Reasons Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Gap

The Historical Reasons Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Gap


Today, owning a home is the most common way Americans hold wealth. The working class gained access to the U.S. housing market in the 1930s with the creation of the modern mortgage, a part of broader policies to restore prosperity during the Great Depression. Black families, however, were largely left out through a practice called redlining. A federal agency called the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation assigned grades to neighborhoods based on criteria including the race and class of residents. Areas that got the lowest grade were deemed hazardous to lend to and color-coded red on maps, making it difficult for Black people to get mortgages. Redlining was outlawed by the Fair Housing Act in 1968, but by hindering home purchases for decades, the practice limited the opportunity for Black families to build wealth. Today, 75% of White families own homes, compared to less than half of Black families, giving rise to calls for programs to help the latter catch up.

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