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View our academic research, reports, and blog posts that tackle issues of economic and racial inclusion.

Notes from the Field
Small-Dollar Mortgages Offer Much-Needed Entry into Homeownership
01.17.2023
For lower-income households, the barriers to homeownership can seem insurmountable. Lending programs can help address the lack of traditional financing available to buyers who are often left out of homeownership—those who need a small-dollar mortgage.
Working Paper
Disentangling Rent Index Differences: Data, Methods, and Scope
12.19.2022 | WP 22-38
Prominent rent growth indices often give strikingly different measurements of rent inflation. We create new indices from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) rent microdata using a repeat-rent index methodology and show that this discrepancy is almost entirely explained by differences in rent growth for new tenants relative to the average rent growth for all tenants. Rent inflation for new tenants leads the official BLS rent inflation by four quarters. As rent is the largest component of the consumer price index, this has implications for our understanding of aggregate inflation dynamics and guiding monetary policy.
Community Development Reports
Home Mortgage Lending by Race and Income in a Time of Low Interest Rates: Examples from Select Counties in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania from 2018 through 2021
11.29.2022
Researchers examine data from select counties in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania from 2018 through 2021.
Research [in] Brief
Research [in] Brief: Manufacturing Jobs Still Pay Well for Some
11.18.2021
Blue-collar factory jobs have lost much of the wage premium they once enjoyed, but other jobs in manufacturing still pay relatively well.
Research [in] Brief
Research [in] Brief: Why Do Black and White Households Still Live in Such Different Neighborhoods?
09.26.2021
Access to schools and job-referral networks in neighborhoods with a high socioeconomic status could be a pathway to economic mobility for Black Americans. Yet, even with the same household income or wealth, Black and white Americans often live in separate neighborhoods, with Black neighborhoods poorer than white ones.
Economic Commentary
The Racial Wealth Gap and Access to Opportunity Neighborhoods
09.09.2021 | EC 2021-18
Some Black households live in neighborhoods with lower incomes than their own incomes might suggest, and this may impede their economic mobility. We investigate possible reasons and find that differences in financial factors do not explain racial distributions across neighborhoods. Our findings indicate other factors such as discrimination in the housing market, racial hostility, and social networks are at work.
Notes from the Field
Feedback Appreciated: What Community Members Told Us about Modernizing the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)
04.08.2021
Discussions to share info and seek public comment on proposed changes to modernize the CRA revealed two things key for ensuring access to capital for all people and communities.
Notes from the Field
CRA, Racism & the Federal Reserve: A Midwest Perspective
01.15.2021
The Community Reinvestment Act is up for its first significant revision in 25 years. It’s important we optimize this tool to address systemic disinvestment in lower-income and minority communities.
Working Paper
Neighborhood Sorting Obscures Neighborhood Effects in the Opportunity Atlas
12.01.2020 | WP 20-37
The Opportunity Atlas (OA) is an innovative data set that ranks neighborhoods according to children’s adult outcomes in several domains, including income. Conceptually, outcomes offer new evidence about neighborhood effects when measured in isolation from neighborhood sorting. This paper shows that neighborhood sorting contributes to OA estimates. We document cases in which small sample sizes and changes over time can explain disagreements between OA rankings and those based on contemporaneous variables. Our results suggest caution for interpretations of the OA data set at a granular level, particularly for predictions about the outcomes of black children in high-income neighborhoods.
Working Paper
What Determines the Success of Housing Mobility Programs?
11.24.2020 | WP 20-36
There is currently interest in crafting public housing policy that combats, rather than contributes to, the residential segregation in American cities. One such policy is the Housing Mobility Program (HMP), which aims to help people move from disinvested neighborhoods to ones with more opportunities. This paper studies how design features influence the success of HMPs in reducing racial segregation. We find that the choice of neighborhood opportunity index used to define the opportunity areas to which participants are encouraged to move has limited influence on HMP success. In contrast, we find that three design features have large effects on HMP success: 1) whether the geographic scope is confined to the central city or is implemented as a metro-level partnership; 2) whether the eligibility criteria are race-based, race-conscious, or race-neutral; 3) whether tenant counseling, tenant search assistance, and landlord outreach are successful in relaxing rental housing supply constraints.
Notes from the Field
The CRA Is Important for Underserved Communities, and Your Input Can Help Modernize It
11.16.2020
The Fed is seeking to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act in a way that significantly expands financial inclusion, and you can have a say in how it’s done.
Community Development Reports
Measuring Evictions during the COVID-19 Crisis
07.17.2020
Evictions are a serious risk for households facing job loss and economic upheaval during the COVID-19 pandemic, and temporary policies put in place to protect renters are beginning to expire. To understand how the crisis is affecting evictions, we measured eviction filing activity across 44 cities and counties. As of July 7, 2020, eviction filings have almost returned to their prepandemic levels in places where local bans have expired or where they were never enacted. We find that eviction filings tend to surge after temporary policies expire much more in places that enacted both filing bans and hearing bans than those that enacted just hearing bans while allowing filings to continue. As federal stimulus supplements for the unemployed expire, evictions are likely to increase for households that have lost work because of the crisis unless there is material improvement in the economy (Mervosh 2020).
Working Paper
Evaluating the Benefits of a Streamlined Refinance Program
07.08.2020 | WP 20-21
Mortgage borrowers who have experienced employment disruptions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are unable to refinance their loans to take advantage of historically low market rates. In this article, we analyze the effects of a streamlined refinance (“refi”) program for government-insured loans that would allow borrowers to refinance without needing to document employment or income. In addition, we consider a cash-out component that would allow borrowers to extract some of the substantial housing equity that many have accumulated in recent years.
Notes from the Field
An Uncommon Crisis: COVID-19 and its Disproportionate Impacts on Vulnerable Communities
05.26.2020
When we asked community partners how COVID-19’s disruptions are impacting low- and moderate income families and neighborhoods and traditionally underserved communities, they heard this: the virus is impacting the already vulnerable disproportionately, and in a way that accentuates existing disparities.
Notes from the Field
Help for Those Facing Eviction Increases to Meet the Challenge of COVID-19
05.05.2020
With businesses closed and orders to shelter in place, many tenants—especially those with low- to moderate-incomes—are finding themselves unemployed, unable to pay their rents, and subject to eviction. There are resources to help.
Notes from the Field
An Unfamiliar Champion in the Fight: Black Homeownership Has an Enduring Advocate
04.16.2020
By raising awareness of issues that challenge black homeownership today, the Cleveland Realtist Association helps anyone—but black consumers in particular—buy property and sustain the benefits of homeownership in any community.
Ask the Expert
How long have contracts for deed existed, and why is the Federal Reserve studying them?
11.26.2019
The Federal Reserve studies contracts for deed to determine how they are used and recommend alternative lending sources for those with limited financing options.
Working Paper
Evidence of Neighborhood Effects from Moving to Opportunity: LATEs of Neighborhood Quality
12.13.2019 | WP 12-08R3
This paper estimates neighborhood effects on adult labor market outcomes using the Moving to Opportunity (MTO) housing mobility experiment. We propose and implement a new strategy for identifying transition-specific effects that exploits identification of the unobserved component of a neighborhood choice model. Estimated Local Average Treatment Effects (LATEs) are large, result from moves between the first and second deciles of the national distribution of neighborhood quality, and pertain to a subpopulation of nine percent of program participants.
Working Paper
Landlords and Access to Opportunity
11.21.2019 | WP 19-02R2
Landlords in high-opportunity neighborhoods screen out tenants using vouchers. In our correspondence experiment, signaling voucher status cuts landlord responses in half. This voucher penalty increases with posted rent and varies little with signals of tenant quality and race. We repeat the experiment after a policy change and test how landlords respond to raising voucher payment limits by $450 per month in high-rent neighborhoods. Most landlords do not change their screening behavior; those who do respond are few and operate at small scale. Our results suggest a successful, systematic policy of moving to opportunity would require more direct engagement with landlords.
Economic Commentary
Racial Inequality, Neighborhood Effects, and Moving to Opportunity
11.04.2019 | EC 2019-17
Moving to Opportunity (MTO) was a housing mobility program designed to investigate neighborhood effects, the influences of the social and physical environment on human development and well-being. Some of the results from MTO have been interpreted as evidence that neighborhood effects are not as strong as earlier evidence had indicated. This Commentary discusses new research suggesting that neighborhood effects are, on the contrary, as strong and policy relevant as suspected before the experiment. This Commentary also discusses why the interpretation of the MTO data is important: If neighborhood effects drive outcomes, then addressing racial inequality requires concerted efforts beyond ending racial discrimination.
Working Paper
Cross-Sectional Patterns of Mortgage Debt during the Housing Boom: Evidence and Implications
10.16.2019 | WP 19-19
In this paper, we use two comprehensive micro datasets to study the evolution of the distribution of mortgage debt during the 2000s housing boom. We show that the allocation of mortgage debt remained stable, as did the distribution of real estate assets. We propose that any theory of the boom must replicate this fact. Using a general equilibrium model, we show that this requires two elements: (1) an exogenous shock to the economy that increases expected house price growth or, alternatively, reduces interest rates and (2) financial markets that endogenously relax constraints in response to the shock. The role played by subprime mortgage debt provides additional empirical evidence that this narrative mirrors reality.
Working Paper
What Explains Neighborhood Sorting by Income and Race?
10.08.2019 | WP 1808R
Why do high-income black households live in neighborhoods with characteristics similar to those of low-income white households? We find that neighborhood sorting by income and race cannot be explained by financial constraints: High-income, high-wealth black households live in similar-quality neighborhoods as low-income, low-wealth white households. We provide evidence that black households sort across neighborhoods according to some non-pecuniary factor(s) correlated with the racial composition of neighborhoods. Black households sorting into black neighborhoods can explain the racial gap in neighborhood quality at all income levels. The supply of high-quality black neighborhoods drives the neighborhood quality of black households.
Notes from the Field
Looking beyond Data to Understand Economic Mobility
09.05.2019
When living on the “wrong” side of a road can make a world of a difference, the proactive and hyper-local work of community development practitioners is essential for sparking change.
Article
Home Lending by Income and Race before and after the Great Recession
12.03.2018
Focusing on seven counties across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, our researchers used Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data to examine application and origination activity by income and race during the past 27 years (1990–2016). In a 13-year span preceding and following the Great Recession (2004–2016), three trends were consistent across all seven counties.
Community Development Reports
An Uneven Recovery: Home Lending in the Fourth District by Race and Income
12.03.2018
Focusing on seven counties across Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, our researchers used Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data to examine application and origination activity by income and race during the past 27 years (1990–2016). In a 13-year span preceding and following the Great Recession (2004–2016), three trends were consistent across all seven counties.
Notes from the Field
Reflections on Discriminatory Lending: Past and Present
05.08.2018
What have we learned about discriminatory lending practices 50 years after the Fair Housing Act was passed? For one, it’s very important to have complete data to make a conclusive claim.
Working Paper
Redistributive Fiscal Policies and Business Cycles in Emerging Economies
05.24.2017 | WP 17-09
Government expenditures are procyclical in emerging markets and counter-cyclical in developed economies. We show this pattern is driven by differences in social transfers.
Working Paper
Does Differential Treatment Translate to Differential Outcomes for Minority Borrowers? Evidence from Matching a Field Experiment to Loan-Level Data
03.22.2017 | WP 17-03
This paper provides evidence on the relationship between differential treatment of minority borrowers and their mortgage market outcomes. Using data from a field experiment that identifies differential treatment matched to real borrower transactions in the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data, we estimate difference-in-difference models between African American and white borrowers across lending institutions that display varying degrees of differential treatment. Our results show that African Americans are more likely to be in a high-cost (subprime) loan when borrowing from lenders that are more responsive to them in the field experiment. We also show that net measures of differential treatment are not related to the probability of African American borrowers having a high-cost loan. Our results suggest that differential outcomes are related to within-institution factors, not just across-institution factors like institutional access, as previous studies find.
Community Development Reports
Lead Poisoning and the Children of Cuyahoga County
08.03.2016
Lead poisoning has been a public health concern for decades. And water with high lead levels is only part of the problem.