The social structure of mortgage discrimination

Justin P. Steil, Len Albright, Jacob S. Rugh, Douglas S. Massey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


In the decade leading up to the US housing crisis, black and Latino borrowers disproportionately received high-cost, high-risk mortgages—a lending disparity well documented by prior quantitative studies. We analyse qualitative data from actors in the lending industry to identify the social structure though which this mortgage discrimination took place. Our data consist of 220 depositions, declarations and related exhibits submitted by borrowers, loan originators, investment banks and others in fair lending cases. Our analyses reveal specific mechanisms through which loan originators identified and gained the trust of black and Latino borrowers in order to place them into higher cost, higher risk loans than similarly situated white borrowers. Loan originators sought out lists of individuals already borrowing money to buy consumer goods in predominantly black and Latino neighbourhoods to find potential borrowers, and exploited intermediaries within local social networks, such as community or religious leaders, to gain those borrowers’ trust.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)759-776
Number of pages18
JournalHousing Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 4 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


  • Housing finance
  • discriminatory lending
  • racial equity


Dive into the research topics of 'The social structure of mortgage discrimination'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this