This paper analyzes the federal urban renewal and slum clearance program. This program was enacted by Title I of the Housing Act of 1949 and was one of the largest and most controversial location-based economic development policies used to rehabilitate neighborhoods in the United States. I construct a new spatial dataset documenting the locations of approximately 200 urban renewal projects across 28 U.S. cities. I use this newly constructed dataset to examine the characteristics of neighborhoods cleared for redevelopment and the effect that urban renewal projects had on neighborhoods over time. I show that conditional on experiencing urban blight, black neighborhoods were between two and three times more likely than white neighborhoods to be targeted for slum clearance. Further, the resulting redevelopment led to a persistent decline in population density, housing density, and in the share of black residents in directly treated neighborhoods. Simultaneously, median rents and median incomes increased. These results are consistent with predictions from a spatial equilibrium model of locational choice. Viewed through the lens of this model, my results imply that households in the lowest end of the income distribution were made worse off by slum clearance policies.
The Effect of "Failed" Community Mental Health Centers on Non-White Mortality, with Mallory Avery (formerly circulated as "The Mortality Effects of Community Mental Health Centers" - submitted)
The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 established Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) across the country with the goal of providing continuous, comprehensive, community-oriented care to people suering from mental illness. Despite this program being considered a failure by most contemporary accounts, the World Health Organization advocates for a transition from the institutionalization of the mentally ill to a system of community-centered care. In this paper, we construct a novel dataset documenting the rollout of CMHCs from 1971 to 1981 to identify the eect of establishing a CMHC on county level mortality rates, focusing on causes of death related to mental illness. Though we find little evidence that access to a CMHC impacted mortality rates in the white population, we find large and robust effects for the non-white population, with CMHCs reducing suicide and homicide rates by 8% and 14%, respectively. CMHCs also reduced deaths from alcohol in the female non-white population by 18%. These results suggest the historical narrative surrounding the failure of this program does not represent the non-white experience and that community care can be eective at reducing mental health related mortality in populations with the least access to alternative treatment options.
The HOLC Maps: How Race and Poverty Influenced Real Estate Professionals' Evaluation of Lending Risk in the 1930s, with Price Fishback, Allison Shertzer, and Randall P. Walsh (formerly circulated as "Race, Risk, and the Emergence of Federal Redlining" - submitted)
During the late 1930s, the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) developed a series of area descriptions with color-coded maps of cities that summarized mortgage lending risk. We provide evidence that these maps were not the primary source used by the FHA to create their “redlining” maps for insuring mortgages. Instead, the HOLC maps provide a unique snapshot of how real estate professionals perceived lending risk in the 1930s. These perceptions were shaped by a wide range of factors including race, income, and housing quality. We use the maps to explore the mechanisms behind the prevalence of black residents in the lowest-rated neighborhoods. Our results suggest that racial bias in the construction of the HOLC maps can explain at most 4 to 20 percent of the observed concentration of black households in the lowest-rated zones. Instead, our results suggest that the majority of black households were located in such zones because decades of disadvantage and discrimination had already pushed them into the core of economically distressed neighborhoods prior to the federal government’s involvement in mortgage markets.
Racial Disparities in Debt Collection, with Domonkos Vamossy
Debt collection judgments have important implications for a debtor’s financial stability, and these judgments are more common in black neighborhoods than in non-black ones. Using Experian Credit Report data, we find that individuals residing in majority black neighborhoods are 16\% more likely to receive a debt collection judgment than individuals residing in majority non-black neighborhoods, even after controlling for differences in income, credit score, default rates, and a multitude of other credit characteristics. We also explore the possibility that collectors are using neighborhood-level information to estimate collection success likelihood using a second source of judgment data from Missouri. We again find that debt collection judgments are more common in majority black neighborhoods than in majority non-black neighborhoods, holding other factors constant. Neighborhood level differences in the previous share of contested judgments, the likelihood of attorney representation, and lending institutions cannot explain the racial gap in debt collection judgments.
Works in Progress
The Short and Long Run Effects of Black Strikebreakers on Racial Inequalities, with Ethan Schmick
Hedonic Housing Index during the Great Depression, with Price Fishback and Tevor M. Kollmann
Reducing College Debt Through Additional Institutional Aid, with Patty Beeson, Daniele Coen-Pirani and Marla Ripoll
The Effect of Community Mental Health Centers on Labor Market Outcomes, with Mallory Avery