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Feb 17, 2018

The red line: Racial disparities in lending

Co-produced with PRX Logo

This episode features an interactive text-messaging tool that allows you to learn more about who gets conventional home loans where you live. To get started, text HOME to 202-873-8325.

Forty years ago, Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act, which required banks to lend to qualified borrowers in blighted neighborhoods. The act aimed to eliminate government-sponsored housing discrimination, known as redlining. But it is full of loopholes: It doesn’t apply to mortgage brokers or cover internet banking, and it allows banks to claim credit for loaning almost exclusively to white applicants moving into historically black neighborhoods – supposedly lifting up low-income areas, but also enabling gentrification.

Today, a new epidemic of modern-day redlining has crept quietly across America. The gap in homeownership between African Americans and whites is now wider than it was during the Jim Crow era.

Ahead of this week’s episode, our reporters analyzed 31 million government mortgage records and determined that people of color were more likely than whites to be denied a conventional home loan in 61 metro areas, including Atlanta, Detroit and Washington. That’s after controlling for a variety of factors, including applicants’ income, loan amount and neighborhood.

No city better exemplifies the trend than Philadelphia, where so-called up-and-coming neighborhoods abound – and where African American applicants were nearly three times as likely as whites to be denied a home loan. That’s where reporters Aaron Glantz and Emmanuel Martinez tell the story of two loan applicants – one black, one white – whose experiences raise larger questions about who gets to buy a home, and who doesn’t, in America.

Dig Deeper

  • READ: For people of color, banks are shutting the door to homeownership
  • READ: Gentrification became low-income lending law’s unintended consequence
  • READ: 8 lenders that aren’t serving people of color for home loans
  • LEARN: How we did our analysis
  • EXPLORE: Search for lending disparities where you live, or text LOAN to 202-873-8325 to Reveal. Standard text rates apply.
  • READ: The full white paper


Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

Reveal is a co-production of The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.