Race, gender, and statistical representation: predatory mortgage lending and the US community reinvestment movement
Elvin K Wyly
Environment and Planning A
American mortgage markets, once arenas of discrimination by exclusion, now operate as venues of segmentation and discrimination by inclusion: credit is widely available, but its terms vary enormously. One market segment involves sophisticated predatory practices in which certain groups of borrowers are targeted for high-cost credit that strips out home equity and worsens the risks of delinquency, default, and foreclosure. Unfortunately, it has become more difficult to measure inequalities of predatory lending: race – ethnicity and gender are ‘disappearing’ from the main public data source used to study, organize, and mobilize on issues of lending inequalities. In this paper, we present a mixed-methods case study of statistical representation of homeowners and homebuyers marginalized by race, ethnicity, and gender. A theoretical examination of official data-collection practices is followed by a discussion of alternative meanings of racial – ethnic and gender nondisclosure. Interviews with a sample of homeowners and homebuyers in the Washington, DC, area reveal some respondent ambivalence about the details of data-collection practices, but provide no consistent support for the idea that nonreporting is solely a matter of individual choice. Econometric analyses indicate that nondisclosure is driven primarily by lending-industry practices, with the strongest disparate impacts in African-American suburbs. Predatory lending is producing ambivalent spaces of racial – ethnic and gender invisibility, requiring new strategies in the reinvestment movement.