From NYU Wagner on Vimeo.
Causes and consequences of racial inequality in housing
The bulk of my work falls under two broad projects, the first of which is wide-ranging exploration of the causes and consequences of racial inequality in housing. Housing markets provide (or block) access to countless other spatially-organized resources (e.g. good schools, safe environments, and short commutes) and because home equity is the largest financial asset held by most households in the United States, homeownership is the cornerstone of the contemporary middle class and of economic mobility. My research in this area investigates the changing nature of racial and spatial disadvantage in the search for housing, the underappreciated and unequally-distributed risks associated with homeownership, as well as how contemporary inequalities are connected to a long history of structural disenfranchisement of people and communities of color. By repeatedly showing the persistent nature of disparities in housing outcomes and the role of residential segregation in fostering disparities, my work highlights the shortcomings of federal policy efforts to further fair housing—most notably regarding housing finance for vulnerable populations. Absent a broad reconsideration of how private markets are structured to perpetuate racialized inequality, as well as the role of government in providing regulatory protections for consumers, we are forced to reevaluate the efficacy of homeownership as a tool for reducing racial inequalities in asset wealth.
From NYU Wagner on Vimeo.
Segregation of financial services
My research on sociospatial disparities in housing opportunity—and housing finance in particular—is informed by and contributes to a growing literature arguing that residential segregation creates easily identifiable local markets for different types of institutions to exclude (e.g. prime mortgage lenders) and exploit (e.g. subprime mortgage lenders). My second research project extends this work to the study of storefront financial services, including “alternative” or “fringe” financial services (e.g. payday lenders and check cashers) as well as “mainstream” services (e.g. traditional banks). The alarming growth of the former (AFS) over the past several decades has caught the attention of policymakers and advocates for the poor, who see AFS as both a cause and consequence of widening inequality. The result of the expansion of this tiered financial services system is a dynamic in which the rich and the poor have access to vastly different tools for wealth accumulation and the very value of money depends on where you live. In aggregate, AFS fees can drain millions of dollars from communities, constituting what some call a “Ghetto Tax.” Despite the broad implications of this change in financial service provision, little sociological attention has been paid to this phenomenon, which provides me an opportunity for influence.