January 11, 2023 Breakfast Meeting Notes

January 11, 2023 Breakfast Meeting Notes


Tony was absent this morning so no trivia.


50/50 was won by Mo.

Lora won the chance to draw for the ace of spades but selected the 8 of clubs so the game goes on.


Today’s speaker was Jason Neenos of PSU, speaking on Racism in America…Redlining in America and Its Legacy.


Jason began by discussing what redlining means. Redlining was a practice in the late 1930s and persisted through the 1970s and even into the 1980s. Banks drew red lines around “areas of concern” on local maps to identify neighborhoods that were felt to be risky or undesirable; would-be homeowners in these redlined areas had more trouble getting a loan.  Reports from this period indicate that the criteria for a negative rating included areas with large Negro or Jewish populations and higher levels of working-class occupations. As a result of this practice, African American and other marginalized peoples had a harder time buying a home.


Redlining didn’t just affect minority families in the 1930s and 1940s. Since inheritance of a home is a major source of family wealth, the practice has had long-term negative consequences. The average rate of home ownership for Caucasian families today is over 70%, while the comparable figures are just under 50% for Hispanic families and just a bit above 40% for African American families.


Another factor affecting generational wealth was the GI bill after WWII. This program was run by the states and allowed returning veterans to come back and get discounted home mortgages. However, in southern states, the rules were written so as to keep African Americans from being eligible for these low-interest mortgages. Even if an African American qualified for a loan, it was often for a lower-value home in a “less desirable” neighborhood. So while the GI bill drove white homeownership, it did not similarly help the Black community.


It is important to recognize that single family housing is heavily subsidized via the mortgage interest deduction. Each year $71 billion in interest deductions is given to middle-class homeowners, while lower-income renters are unable to get this benefit.


As a result of these influences, household wealth varies widely by race. The average net worth of White families is a little under $200,000, while the average wealth of Black families is about $24,000. Baby boomers are dying off and leaving their wealth to their families, but Black families just don’t have the wealth to leave behind  Jason noted that it’s great to talk about “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” but many Black individuals don’t have any bootstraps.


Overt redlining has stopped but covert racism still affects the housing market. For example, it is not unusual for a Black family to have their home appraised and receive a shockingly low  valuation for the neighborhood. In several high profile cases, Black families have “whitewashed” their house, removing family photos and getting a white friend to pose as owner during a second appraisal, and as a result getting a second appraisal that was hundreds of thousands of dollars higher than the first. 


Subtle racism also affects health. Areas with a high White population have more green space, while Black areas have fewer trees and more asphalt. Lack of trees leads to much hotter temperatures in Black neighborhoods. Poorer neighborhoods also have a disproportionately higher share of factories and industry, leading to higher levels of pollution which in turn affects rates of asthma, heart disease and cancer. Freeways were also preferentially located in poorer neighborhoods, as residents of White neighborhoods had the time and expertise to fight against such roads in their areas more than the residents of Black areas did. Again, the result is more air and noise pollution in the poorer neighborhoods.


Respectfully submitted,


Lora Miller, secretary