Subprime Loans And Black Women

I posted last week about the correlation between foreclosures and minorities. The National Urban League (NUL) released a report yesterday that provided additional numbers to back this pattern up, tracing the correlation back to subprime loans.

"With 45.8 percent of African-American households headed by women vs. 13.6 percent of white households, black women are particularly hard hit when considering issues such as subprime lending," according to a NUL press release about the report, called The State of Black America.

The State of Black America, published annually since 1976 by the National Urban League, covers issues critical to black America. Last year's report focused on black men and the current report focuses on black women. The report covers a wide variety of issues, but I am going to focus on one issue first: homeownership.

"Homeownership is a cornerstone of the American dream, and home equity an important path to prosperity as a foundation for acquiring other assets like a college education, a small business and a secure retirement. Fixing the subprime market is important, but homeownership can still remain within the reach of the less affluent if the focus is shifted toward encouraging a higher savings rate," Lisa Mensah, executive director of the Initiative on Financial Security, wrote in an essay published in the report.

Americans across the board are dismal savers (for more information, see our previous article on Americans' Negative Savings Rate). Mensah proposed a down payment savings account, called a Home Account, with a 50 percent government match on their savings--up to $5,000--that could only be used by first-time, low- and moderate-income homebuyers. In theory, this would decrease the dependency of such homebuyers on subprime loans and allow more of them to purchase homes they could actually afford. The ability to afford a home could boost the economic standing of black Americans.

"Nearly two-thirds of the wealth possessed by African-American families is in the form of home equity. Without homeownership, most of these households own very little and have few opportunities to build economic security," Andrea Harris, president of the North Carolina Institute for Minority Economic Development, wrote in an essay published in the report. "Half of all African-American households with children are headed by women; therefore, homeownership is an important economic advantage for these families."

These women face serious economic disadvantages, though. "Subprime loans have gone disproportionately to women, and...African-American and Latina women have the highest rates of subprime lending when compared to all other Americans, especially white men who receive the lowest share of subprime loans," Harris wrote.

"Over half of all loans made to black borrowers in 2005 and 2006 were subprime…African-American women account for 48.8 percent of all African-American subprime borrowers in 2006," she wrote. "The subprime mortgage crisis will drain $213 billion in wealth [from] black Americans, producing for African Americans the greatest wealth loss in modern U.S. history."

Not all the news in the report was so dire, though; check back later for my post on small business ownership among black women.

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