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Jacob Faber ─ We Built This: Consequences of New Deal Era Intervention in America's Racial Geography

Monday, February 24, 2020

12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room, 111 Thayer Street

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The contemporary American practice of homeownership was born out of government programs adopted during the New Deal. The Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC)—and later the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and GI Bill—expanded home buying opportunity, though in segregationist fashion. These programs largely excluded communities of color through mechanisms such as redlining. These policies fueled white suburbanization and black ghettoization, while laying the foundation for the racial wealth gap. This is the first paper to investigate the long-term consequences of these policies on the segregation of cities. Faber combines a full century of census data with archival data to show that cities HOLC appraised became more segregated than those it ignored. The gap emerged between 1930 and 1950 and remains significant: in 2010, the black-white dissimilarity, black isolation, and white-black information theory indices are 12, 16, and 8 points higher in appraised cities, respectively. Results are consistent across a range of robustness checks, including exploitation of imperfect implementation of appraisal guidelines and geographic spillover. The long-term impact of these policies is a reminder of the intentionality that shaped America’s racial geography, and the scale of intervention that will be required to disrupt the persistence of segregation.

Jacob Faber is an associate professor at the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. He holds a PhD (2015) in Sociology from NYU. His scholarship highlights the rapidly-changing roles of institutional actors (e.g. mortgage lenders, real estate agents, check cashing outlets, and police officers) in facilitating the reproduction of racial and spatial inequality. He leverages observational and experimental methods to study the mechanisms responsible for sorting individuals across space and how the distribution of people by race and class interacts with political, social, and ecological systems to create and sustain economic disparities. His research has appeared in journals including Social Forces, City & Community, Urban Affairs Review, Demography, and Annual Review of Sociology. His pipeline of ongoing projects includes scholarship on the racial implications of predatory lending, the implications of housing discrimination on racialized violence, and the implications of neighborhood policing on children’s educational performance.

Watson Institute Research Seminar Series