NYU Analysis Finds New Deal Housing Policies Continue to Impact Racial Segregation Today

A new study by Jacob W. Faber, an associate professor of sociology and public service at New York University, finds that housing programs adopted during the New Deal increased segregation in American cities and towns, creating racial disparities that continue to characterize life in the twenty-first century.

Today’s practice of American homeownership stems from government programs adopted during the New Deal. The Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) — and later the Federal Housing Administration and GI Bill — expanded home-buying opportunity, but were marked by segregationist practices.

The study examined a century of U.S. census data for more than 650 cities, along with other archival data documenting government redlining practices. The multi-decade investigation showed that cities that were HOLC-appraised became more segregated than those that were not. Notably, the gap emerged during America’s suburbanization boom of the 1940s and 1950s and remained through the first decade of the 21st century.

“Through mechanisms such as redlining, these policies fueled White suburbanization and Black ghettoization, while laying the foundation for the racial wealth gap,” explains Dr. Faber. “The long-term impact of these policies is a reminder of the intentionality that shaped racial geography in the United States and the scale of intervention that will be required to disrupt the persistence of segregation.”

The full study, “We Built This: Consequences of New Deal Era Intervention in America’s Racial Geography,” was published in the American Sociological Review. It may be accessed here.

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