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Mortgage Foreclosure and Health Disparities: Serial Displacement as Asset Extraction in African American Populations

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Abstract

In this paper we offer a conceptualization of mortgage foreclosure as serial displacement by highlighting the current crisis in the context of historically repeated extraction of capital—economic, social, and human—from communities defined at different scales: geographically, socially, and that of embodied individuals. We argue that serial displacement is the loss of capital, physical resources, social integration and collective capacity, and psycho-social resources at each of these scales, with losses at one level affecting other levels. The repeated extraction of resources has negative implications for the health of individuals and groups, within generations as well as across generations, through the accumulation of loss over time. Our analysis of the foreclosure crisis as serial displacement for African American households in the United States begins with the “housing niche” model. We focus on the foreclosure crisis as an example of the interconnectedness of structured inequality in health and housing. Then we briefly review the history of policies related to racial inequality in homeownership in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We end with an analysis of the scales of displacement and the human, social, and capital asset extraction that accompany them.

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FIGURE 1.

Notes

  1. We borrow the notion of “the inheritance of loss” from Kiran Desai’s book of the same name. In Desai’s book, India’s cololnial history is inscribed into the bodies, lives, and material environmen of post colonial India. We extend the concept to intergenerational patterns of loss and displacement among African Americans.

  2. For more of a full discussion of specific deregulatory legislation, see Engel and McCoy.38

  3. Kim (2000) reviews literature that indicates that in some circumstances blacks pay more for their homes, yet owner-occupied sales tend not to show comparable appreciation to whites.58

  4. David Harvey’s concept of “accumulation by dispossession” contextualizes this displacement of capital by attending to the role it plays in capital accumulation and economic growth.60

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Correspondence to Susan Saegert.

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African American and black are used somewhat interchangeably. African American is preferred by the authors, but when discussing works on black–white differences, the term black is sometimes used in keeping with the source.

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Saegert, S., Fields, D. & Libman, K. Mortgage Foreclosure and Health Disparities: Serial Displacement as Asset Extraction in African American Populations. J Urban Health 88, 390–402 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-011-9584-3

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