Home Inequity: Race, Wealth, and Home-Ownership in St. Louis, 1940-2016

Colin Gordon, University of Iowa
Sarah K. Bruch, University of Delaware

The persistence and severity of the gap between black and white wealth, and the role of housing discrimination in creating and sustaining this gap, are both well documented. But given the chronological and spatial limits of national data sets, we have little direct empirical evidence about the local mechanisms shaping race, housing and wealth in the era when most of the damage was done. We employ the newly-available 1940 full count census and the archival records of the St. Louis Assessors office to traced housing values, tenure, and disposition for a sample of 1940 owners and addresses. We show that sustained residential segregation carved the City into zones with very different trajectories of housing opportunity, and trapped African-American homeowners into long tenures of ownership in distressed and depreciating neighborhoods.

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 Presented in Session 250. Race, Cities, and Citizenship