Race, Space, and Cumulative Disadvantage: A Case Study of the Subprime Lending Collapse


stratification, discrimination, residential segregation, African Americans, wealth


In this article, we describe how residential segregation and individual racial disparities generate racialized patterns of subprime lending and lead to financial loss among black borrowers in segregated cities. We conceptualize race as a cumulative disadvantage because of its direct and indirect effects on socioeconomic status at the individual and neighborhood levels, with consequences that reverberate across a borrower’s life and between generations. Using Baltimore, Maryland as a case study setting, we combine data from reports filed under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act with additional loan-level data from mortgage-backed securities. We find that race and neighborhood racial segregation are critical factors explaining black disadvantage across successive stages in the process of lending and foreclosure, controlling for differences in borrower credit scores, income, occupancy status, and loan-to-value ratios. We analyze the cumulative cost of predatory lending to black borrowers in terms of reduced disposable income and lost wealth. We find the cost to be substantial. Black borrowers paid an estimated additional 5 to 11 percent in monthly payments and those that completed foreclosure in the sample lost an excess of $2 million in home equity. These costs were magnified in mostly black neighborhoods and in turn heavily concentrated in communities of color. By elucidating the mechanisms that link black segregation to discrimination we demonstrate how processes of cumulative disadvantage continue to undermine black socioeconomic status in the United States today.

Original Publication Citation

Rugh, Jacob S., Len Albright, and Douglas S. Massey. 2015. “Race, Space, and Cumulative Disadvantage: A Case Study of the Subprime Mortgage Collapse.” Social Problems 62(2):186-218.* doi: 10.1093/socpro/spv002*Winner of the John Hope Franklin Prize, Law & Society Association, 2016.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Social Problems




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor