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Black and Whites In Assisted Housing Depend Equally on Different Types of Housing, but Black Households Live in Lower Quality Areas

A study by Sandra J. Newman and Scott Holupka, “Race and Assisted Housing,” published in Housing Policy Debate explores racial disparities between black and white families with children living in publicly assisted housing. Black and white families in assisted housing were equally likely to reside in public housing, live in privately owned multifamily properties funded by project-based subsidies or the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, or receive Housing Choice Vouchers. Black families, however, were more likely to reside in lower quality neighborhoods.

The authors found no racial disparities in the type of housing assistance, the management performance of public housing, or the physical quality of project-based housing for families who obtained housing assistance in the first decade of the 2000s. Black families, however, lived in neighborhoods with a higher family poverty rate than white families (28.0% vs. 16.0%), a higher percentage of public assistance recipients (7.4% vs. 4.0%), a higher unemployment rate (8.6% vs. 5.1%), and a lower percentage of college graduates (14.9% vs. 18.3%).

The authors also examined education, employment, and earnings outcomes in 2011 for young adults between the ages of 20 and 26 who had lived in assisted housing from 2000 to 2010. They found that white young adults were more likely to be employed than black young adults (63.6% vs. 33.9%) and have higher earnings ($15,838 vs. $7,127). Further analysis indicated that these differences were strongly influenced by the young adults’ childhood family backgrounds. The family background included the household head’s educational and marital status, family income, family size, number of children, and whether the head of household or a spouse was disabled. The most important variable in explaining these outcomes was family income.

Neighborhood quality did not explain the racial disparities in education and employment outcomes. The authors did find that black young adults who had lived in relatively better neighborhoods had better high school graduation rates, earned more, and worked more hours than black young adults who had lived in relatively worse neighborhoods. Their outcomes, however, were not better than the white young adults.

The authors discuss several explanations for the lower neighborhood quality of black households, including discrimination, the greater likelihood of black households to apply for housing in central-city neighborhoods that tend to score lower on measures of neighborhood quality, HUD’s competing policy goals of providing households with access to high quality neighborhoods and serving as many households as possible, and a lack of regional cooperation necessary for region-wide access to affordable housing.

The authors identify HUD’s Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule as a bold step in reducing racial disparities in neighborhood quality. HUD’s AFFH-related data and assessment tool could help local governments develop fair housing plans to reduce residential segregation and concentrated poverty.

Race and Assisted Housing is available at: