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Race, Power, and the Subprime/Foreclosure Crisis: A Mesoanalysis

  • Gary A. Dymski
  • Jesus Hernandez
  • Lisa Mohanty

Economists' principal explanations of the subprime crisis differ from those developed by noneconomists in that the latter see it as rooted in the US legacy of racial/ethnic inequality, and especially in racial residential segregation, whereas the former ignore race. This paper traces this disjuncture to two sources. What is missing in the social science view is any attention to the market mechanisms involved in subprime lending; and economists, on their side, have drawn too tight a boundary for "the economic," focusing on market mechanisms per se, to the exclusion of the households and community whose resources and outcomes these mechanisms affect. Economists' extensive empirical studies of racial redlining and discrimination in credit markets have, ironically, had the effect of making race analytically invisible. Because of these explanatory lacunae, two defining aspects of the subprime crisis have not been well explained. First, why were borrowers that had previously been excluded from equal access to mortgage credit instead super included in subprime lending? Second, why didn't the flood of mortgage brokers that accompanied the 2000s housing boom reduce the proportion of minority borrowers who were burdened with costly and ultimately unpayable mortgages? This paper develops a mesoanalysis to answer the first of these questions. This analysis traces the coevolution of banking strategies and client communities, shaped by and reinforcing patterns of racial/ethnic inequality. The second question is answered by showing how unequal power relations impacted patterns of subprime lending. Consequences for gender inequality in credit markets are also briefly discussed.

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Paper provided by Levy Economics Institute in its series Economics Working Paper Archive with number wp_669.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:lev:wrkpap:wp_669
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  1. Glenn B. Canner & Wayne Passmore, 1994. "Residential lending to low-income and minority families: evidence from the 1992 HMDA data," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Feb, pages 79-108.
  2. William M. Rodgers III (ed.), 2006. "Handbook on the Economics of Discrimination," Books, Edward Elgar, number 2634.
  3. Jesus Hernandez, 2009. "Redlining Revisited: Mortgage Lending Patterns in Sacramento 1930-2004," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(2), pages 291-313, 06.
  4. William C. Hunter & Mary Beth Walker, 1995. "The cultural affinity hypothesis and mortgage lending decisions," Working Paper Series, Issues in Financial Regulation 95-8, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  5. Kristopher Gerardi & Andreas Lehnert & Shane M. Sherlund & Paul Willen, 2008. "Making Sense of the Subprime Crisis," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(2 (Fall)), pages 69-159.
  6. Farmer, Roger, 2010. "Expectations, Employment and Prices," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195397901.
  7. Holmes, Andrew & Horvitz, Paul, 1994. " Mortgage Redlining: Race, Risk, and Demand," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(1), pages 81-99, March.
  8. Charles W. Calomiris & Charles M. Kahn & Stanley D. Longhofer, 1994. "Housing-finance intervention and private incentives: helping minorities and the poor," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 634-678.
  9. Lisa Mohanty & Gary Dymski, 1999. "Credit and Banking Structure: Asian and African-American Experience in Los Angeles," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(2), pages 362-366, May.
  10. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1987. "The Causes and Consequences of the Dependence of Quality on Price," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 25(1), pages 1-48, March.
  11. Alicia H. Munnell, 1992. "Mortgage lending in Boston: interpreting HMDA data," Working Papers 92-7, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  12. Reinhart, Carmen & Rogoff, Kenneth, 2009. "This Time It’s Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly-Preface," MPRA Paper 17451, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Carmen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff, 2009. "This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 8973, March.
  14. G A Dymski & J M Veitch, 1996. "Financial transformation and the metropolis: booms, busts, and banking in Los Angeles," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 28(7), pages 1233-1260, July.
  15. Hunter, William C & Walker, Mary Beth, 1996. "The Cultural Affinity Hypothesis and Mortgage Lending Decisions," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 13(1), pages 57-70, July.
  16. Quigley John M., 2008. "Compensation and Incentives in the Mortgage Business," The Economists' Voice, De Gruyter, vol. 5(6), pages 1-3, October.
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