Have Anti-Discrimination Housing Laws Worked?
Evidence from Trends in Black Homeownership
RAPHAEL W. BOSTIC
School of Policy, Planning, and Development, Lusk Center for Real Estate, University of Southern California,
326 Ralph and Goldy Lewis Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0626, USA
RICHARD W. MARTIN
Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, 206 Brooks Hall, Athens, GA 30602, USA
This paper explores the hypothesis that anti-discrimination legislation has been an important factor in shaping
the evolution of minority homeownership spatial trends. It does so by studying homeownership patterns of
black and non-black households during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s using Census data and data that proxies for
the level of enforcement of the Fair Housing Act over time. The results provide unambiguous support for the
view that enforcement has been a key factor for black homeownership since the 1970s, as we ﬁnd a consistent
positive relationship between fair housing policy enforcement and black homeownership growth. In addition,
we ﬁnd clear evidence that black homeowners gained access to more diverse and higher-income neighborhoods
over time, with the shift occurring beginning in the 1980s and continuing in the 1990s. Importantly, both of
these results are race-speciﬁc results, as there are no such patterns among non-black homeowners. Taken
together, the results are consistent with the view that the housing-related civil rights legislation passed during
the 1960s and 1970s helped alter, and reduce, the role that race played in housing markets.
Key Words: discrimination, homeownership, homes, housing, race
The rate of homeownership for families in the United States has steadily grown since
World War II, increasing from around 40 percent in 1940 to nearly 70 percent today
(U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2002).
Federal policies, such as
the National Housing Act of 1949, have played a catalyzing role for these trends, as they
promoted the creation of high quality housing that was accessible to a majority of
households (Martinez, 2000).
The overall trends belie signiﬁcant heterogeneity in homeownership experiences for
households of different races. Hovering between 45 and 50 percent, the homeownership
rate for black and Hispanic households is far lower than that of white households. This
paper examines the nature of this divergence and explores the hypothesis that anti-
discrimination legislation has been an important factor in shaping the evolution of
minority homeownership spatial trends. It does so by studying homeownership patterns
of black and non-black households during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s using Census data
and data that measures geographic variation in the level of enforcement of the Fair
Housing Act over time.
The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 31:1, 5–26, 2005
2005 Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. Manufactured in The Netherlands.