Eight View


Between 1940 and 1990, housing growth in the United States outpaced population growth by 173 to 88 percent, and the proportion of homeowners nearly doubled. The same trend is observable internationally, and scholarly debate weighs whether demographic shifts or policy decisions are to blame.

A 2015 book by NANCY H. KWAK examines the rise of homeownership in light of US foreign policy and economic objectives. Focusing on the export of low-income homeownership programs, the book situates housing policy within broader distributional debates.

From the introduction:

“In the US, the homeownership ideal had begun forming in the mid-nineteenth century. Tracts on pastoral-republican suburbinization, Calvin Coolidge’s call for a ‘Nation of Homeowners,’ the Better Homes in American Movement and the Home Modernizing Bureau all helped build an ideology that connected national identity with single-family owner occupancy. At the end of World War II, American advisors began urging countries around the world to push local, undocumented land uses to the margins and consider formal homeownership as a long term goal for the masses. Mass homeownership fuelled globalization by standardizing local processes of housing and land valuation, use, and tenure into a uniform system facilitating national and international investment. As more people participated in a globalized property and credit system, more of the urban landscape became friendly to corporate investment, making policymakers amenable to mass urban resettlement and modernization schemes. Implicit and reinforced in this system was the belief that the middle class served as a critical anchor for political stability, and that homeownership not only anchored the middle class but created it.

The World Bank played a particularly important role in normalizing an American version of mass homeownership at the end of the twentieth century. Up until the 1970s, the Bank had not exhibited much interest in directly addressing urban poverty, and its workers thought of housing primarily as welfare provision rather than generative investment. It was only in an era of explosive urban poverty and declining congressional support for American bilateral aid programs that the Bank took a more active role, beginning in Senegal, then moving to Tanzania, Zambia, Indonesia, and others. World Bank housing experts clarified that property rights could confer ‘enormous benefits on many poor families.’ “

Link to the book. h/t the one and only Paul Katz.

  • “In Canada and the United States, industrialization and urbanization occurred more or less simultaneously, creating a substantial working class in the growing cities by the early 20th century. In Latin America and the Caribbean, on the other hand, dependent industrialization resulted in a rapidly growing urban population with a relatively small industrial sector, a large commercial service sector, and a significant informal urban economy.” Kwak and Sean Purdy introduce a 2007 Urban History issue on “Public Housing Histories in the Americas.” Link.
  • “Planning colonias proletarias required surveying and subdividing land, actions undertaken by municipal engineers, architects, and planners. But it also required negotiating with resident associations and political brokers who deftly manipulated municipal codes and blueprints.” Emilio de Antuñano’s dissertation on urban planning in Mexico City, 1930-60. Link. And another dissertation by Michael William Sugarman compares housing policy in Bombay, Hong Kong, and Singapore from 1894-1960. Link.
  • “Taking the city of Sydney, Australia, as exemplary of a dynamic that has unfolded across the Anglo-American economies, we explain how residential property was constructed as a financial asset and how government policies helped to generate the phenomenal house price inflation and unequal capital gains of recent years.” A 2019 precursor to Lisa Adkins, Melinda Cooper, and Martijn Konings’ The Asset Economy. Link. And stay tuned for Martijn Konings forthcoming Phenomenal World piece on property inflation.


Discrimination in Mental Health Care

PhD Candidate in Economics at Georgia State University BENJAMIN HARRELL studies experimental and health economics. A recent co-authored NBER working paper uses an experimental design to examine discrimination against transgender and non-binary individuals in mental healthcare settings.

From the paper:

“A broad body of interdisciplinary research establishes that transgender and non-binary (TNB) individuals face discrimination across many contexts, including healthcare. However, no previous research quantifies the extent to which transgender and non-binary people face discrimination in mental healthcare markets. This paper provides the first experimental evidence of gender identity discrimination in the mental health care system. To do this, we conduct a large-scale experimental field study of mental health care providers throughout the United States. Specifically, we request appointments from mental health providers, including psychologists, counselors, social workers, and psychiatrists, using a popular online website. We generally find no differences in positive response rates between TNB and cisgender prospective patients in our preferred specifications. This lack of a difference occurs because positive response rates may be higher for white transgender women and men. However, the significantly more frequent discrimination against African American and Hispanic TNB people (mainly Hispanic transgender women and non-binary African American people) offsets this, such that is little evidence of a difference on average between TNB and cisgender prospective patients. Ignoring intersectionality thus obscures this discrimination against TNB people of color and apparent preference for white binary transgender people.”

Link to the paper, link to Harrell’s website.

Each week we highlight great work from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Have you read any excellent research recently that you’d like to see shared here? Send it our way: editorial@jainfamilyinstitute.org.

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  • Join us next Thursday, December 17 at 3 pm ET for a JFI Research Session on “Reweaving the Safety Net: The Best Fit for Guaranteed Income,” led by JFI’s Director of Research Sidhya Balakrishnan, Lead Researcher on Guaranteed Income Stephen Nuñez, and Michael Lewis. See more details here, and register here.
  • “As algorithmic governance, the Online Compliance Intervention directs attention to the chronopolitics of contemporary welfare bureaucracies.” Andrew Whelan on Australia’s big data initiative in welfare provision. Link.
  • Perry Anderson in the LRB with nineteen thousand words on the European Union. Link.
  • “Workers have mobilized under circumstances normally associated with non-mobilization, meaning workplaces characterized by technological innovation and absent or ineffective trade unions.” Lorenzo Cini and Bartek Goldmann analyze worker mobilizations in Italian logistics and food delivery. Link.
  • Earnings inequality 1970-2018, by Olle Hammar and Daniel Waldenström. Link.
  • Katherine Clayton. Jordan Horrillo, and Paul M. Sniderman question the IAT and AMP as measures of racial prejudice, finding that “substantial numbers of white Americans that the IAT and the AMP classify as free of prejudice openly endorse explicitly negative stereotypes of Black Americans.” Link.
  • A new report from the Economic Policy Institute on the decline of private sector unions. Link.
  • In EdSurge, Tony Wan reports on college offers of income-share agreements. Link.
  • Francine D. Blau, Josefine Koebe and Pamela A. Meyerhofer on defining “essential” and “frontline” workers in the Covid-19 pandemic. Link.
  • John Berdell and Thomas Mondschean offer a view of Jeremy Bentham and Henry Thornton’s divergent approaches to financial stabilization in 1802. Link.
  • “In this article, we document a historical reversal of fortune within the Western agricultural core region, showing that regions which made early transition to Neolithic agriculture are now poorer than regions that made the transition later. Using data from a large number of carbon-dated Neolithic sites throughout the Western agricultural area, we determine approximate transition dates for about 60 countries, 280 medium-sized regions, and 1,400 small regions. We demonstrate that there is a strong negative association between time since agricultural transition and current income levels within Western countries, with a particularly strong relationship in Italy, Spain, and Turkey. Importantly, we find that the economic reversal appears to have started to emerge already by 1500 ce, that is, before the Western colonization and industrialization, and then grew stronger over time.” By Ola Olsson and Christopher Paik. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations: editorial@jainfamilyinstitute.org

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