HTS Guest Speaker Dr. Jennifer Light, Northwestern University

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"Nationality and Neighborhood Risk at the Origins of FHA Underwriting"

Histories of the emergence of federally sanctioned mortgage underwriting in the US have made racial discrimination a central theme. Yet their emphasis on systematic favoritism for whites over blacks tells only part of the story. This project examines how a broader, waning concept of race that encompassed nationality as well as skin color influenced the practice of locational risk rating at the Federal Housing Administration. Using qualitative and quantitative methods to examine the construction of "neighborhood risk" reveals how, from the introduction of the agency's underwriting standards, raters depended on a more nuanced population classification scheme in evaluating urban areas. The evidence presented here about the differential treatment of nationality groups points to new directions for studies of the history of housing policy in the United States, and suggests how geographic information systems (GIS) can complement traditional archival methods as an analytic tool.

This talk is made possible thanks to the generosity of the B & B Stern Foundation


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  • Created By:
    Amy D'Unger
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  • Modified By:
    Fletcher Moore
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