Fragile Health and Fragile Wealth: Mortgage Strain Among African American Homeowners
August 18, 2014 09:00 AM
The dominant public discourse around the recent mortgage and foreclosure crisis has primarily focused on recent housing market dynamics such as subprime lending and declining housing values. In the paper Fragile Health and Fragile Wealth: Mortgage Strain Among African American Homeowners, from the APPAM Online Paper Collection, authors Danya Keene, Julia Lynch, and Amy Baker present an alternative narrative about mortgage default and foreclosure that emerged from 28 in-depth interviews with working-class, African American homeowners who were at risk of losing their homes.
The authors show how racial inequalities in health arising from structural conditions in society intersect with other racially stratified sources of housing fragility to put families at risk of foreclosure. Many participants in this study were long-term homeowners who experienced mortgage strain as result of a health related event that triggered the collapse of a fragile household budget. Like many working-class African Americans, participants experienced poor health and disability at relatively young ages. Additionally, they often lacked access to personal and public safety nets that could buffer the consequences of illness. Understanding how poor health plays out in the lived experiences of African American homeowners and contributes to mortgage strain provides important insight into the downstream consequences of vast and unrelenting health inequality. Furthermore, understanding the processes through which illness can act as a financial shock has important implications for the design of effective public policy.
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