In the past week, the University of Baltimore’s Baltimore Neighborhoods Indicator Alliance (BNIA) released an analysis, possibly the first since the onset of the foreclosure crisis, that examines the effects of the foreclosures on children in Baltimore. I first came across the study by way of Jamie Smith Hopkins’ excellent “Real Estate Wonk” blog, where Ms. Hopkins provides an enlightening commentary on the study and its implications.
University of Baltimore Professor Matthew Kachura conducted the study; he received ample funding from various arms of the Open Society Institute. The study is premised on the notion that while the foreclosure crisis has prompted much examination of related matters, like the impact on property values and the housing market, little if any research exists on the foreclosure crisis’s impact on schoolchildren. From there, Kachura’s study proceeds to dissect itself into two phases: phase one identifies the students affected by foreclosure and delineates a broad set of demographic characteristics, while the second phase, which is yet to be published, will look at the school performance of the affected students. The published phase exhaustively utilizes hard data, including publically available foreclosure statistics and other metrics provided by the Baltimore Public Schools; the second phase will look at test scores.
While one cannot make assumptions about the negative impact that foreclosures will have on students’ performances just yet, Ms. Hopkins, on her blog, points out that a University of Baltimore press release has stated that affected students “may have to switch schools, move in with relatives, or leave the city altogether,” shedding light on the outcomes of the second phase of the study.
Kachura’s study proffers further evidence for the interrelationship between housing policies and systemic racism and poverty. In a previous post, my colleague Will Flagle covered the recent Brandeis University study on the enormous impact that possessing equity in a home has had on intergenerational wealth over the past several decades, which, it turns out, has greatly contributed to inequality between African-Americans and White Americans nowadays. Here, Kachura documents the disproportionate impact that foreclosures in Baltimore have had on minorities, conveyed in the graphs below:
Perhaps most insightful, Kachura’s data, coupled with that of the Brandeis study and others, gives us a clearer indication of the less salient, less tangible meaning of these foreclosures. Minorities disproportionately are victims of foreclosure in part because, for systemic reasons, they have access to less capital and family wealth, in part because they are frequently targeted with predatory, non-prime loans, and in part because by and large they do not benefit from the sort of white privilege that would enable one to walk away from a million dollar mortgage and face hardly any repercussions. As Barbara Eirenreich and others have pointed out, while the foreclosure crisis translates to a recession for some, in the African-American community it has meant a depression. Kachura’s research suggests that because of foreclosures, minority children will face educational setbacks, and in turn lower college matriculation rates, access to decent jobs, affordable housing, and respect. In short, the foreclosure crisis, as silly as it may sound, is reinforcing systemic racism, weakening the resources of minorities, and curtailing the rise of diverse neighborhoods and communities.