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Racial Segregation in Housing Markets and the Erosion of Black Wealth

Prottoy A. Akbar, Sijie Li, Allison Shertzer, Randall P. Walsh

NBER Working Paper No. 25805
Issued in May 2019, Revised in January 2020
NBER Program(s):Program on the Development of the American Economy

Housing is the most important asset for the vast majority of American households and a key driver of racial disparities in wealth. This paper studies how residential segregation by race eroded black wealth in prewar urban areas. Using a novel sample of matched addresses from prewar American cities, we find that over a single decade rental prices soared by roughly 50 percent on city blocks that transitioned from all white to majority black. Meanwhile, pioneering black families paid a 28 percent premium to buy a home on a majority white block. These homes then lost 10 percent of their original value as the block became majority black. These findings strongly suggest that segregated housing markets cost black families much of the gains associated with migrating to the North.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25805

 
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