Researchers Find Foreclosures Racialized

Study indicates foreclosure rates in Tuscaloosa are biased towards older black neighborhoods.

According to a study published in The Professional Geographer, Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s mortgage foreclosure trends since 2008 have followed the race-wealth divide. Dr. Joe Weber, associate professor of geography and Dr. Bronwen Lichtenstein, sociology professor at The University of Alabama say the foreclosures disproportionately affect black residents.

The two professors analyzed foreclosure data in Tuscaloosa from 2008 to 2011. They found foreclosure rates were mostly absent from wealthy white areas and were heavily concentrated in older black neighborhoods. The publication was published over the summer and titled, “Old Ways, New Impacts: Race, Residential Patterns, and the Home Foreclosure Crisis in the American South.”

It differs from many other studies that focused on subprime and predatory lending tactics targeting poor minorities and minority neighborhoods in large cities by analyzing the race divide caused by foreclosure rates in a small Southern city. The publication has garnered significant attention due to this fact. Larger cities could have hundreds of “tracts,” said Weber, which provides a detailed view of housing trends. However, in a smaller city, there are relatively few; they likely include different types of rural land and neighborhoods.

“So, we mapped out individual addresses and created a continuous surface that allows us to identify clusters of foreclosed homes,” says Weber. “Our approach revealed trends not apparent if the standard census zones were used. We also used 2010 census data in the study, while most other studies used 2000 data, so our study provides a more up-to-date look at foreclosure trends.”

Lichtenstein added, “I believe that this refined approach is pretty novel, because most analyses of this type use national or large-scale datasets, rather than data for a single city or county.” “The results indicate that blacks and whites experience different patterns of foreclosure and that the housing crisis exacerbates geographical patterns of residential segregation,” according to the study.

“These are segregated neighborhoods,” Lichtenstein said. “It’s very intimately tied to race and residential segregation. The South has a history of it, but so do cities in the north like Baltimore and Chicago. People, generally speaking, think of foreclosure as an equal opportunity crisis, Most don’t realize how racialized it is. After we did our analyses, it was so stark.”


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