The first several years of the 21st century were relatively good ones for the housing market—at least on the surface. Homeownership climbed to around 70 percent, and all that demand meant lots of new construction and increasing home equity for existing owners. If someone was lucky enough to buy and sell before the market went bust, or if their home wasn’t in an area with catastrophic value loss, they probably increased their net worth just by keeping a roof overhead. Unless they were black.
“Becoming a homeowner was not a fruitful asset accumulation strategy for low- and moderate-income black families in the 2000 decade, in either the short- or medium-term,” write Sandra J. Newman and C. Scott Holupka, authors of a new study from Johns Hopkins University.
To come to that conclusion they looked at data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), a representative survey of 5,000 American families. They find that white Americans with low net worth who bought during the boom years made out much better than black Americans who had the same timing and similar financial circumstances. Black families who bought in 2005 lost almost $20,000 of net worth by 2007, according to the paper. By 2011 those losses were more like $30,000. White homeowners didn’t have quite the same problem. Those who purchased in 2007 saw their net worth grow by $18,000 in two years, and then those gains eroded, leaving them with an increase of $13,000 by 2011. All told, the black families lost, on average, 43 percent of their wealth.