And yet, because blacks and Latinos often purchase homes in disadvantaged communities, they are less likely to be able to move and may end up feeling discontent with their community — and potentially their purchase.
“Homeownership may be considered a double-edged sword,” said sociologist Meredith Greif, Ph.D. “For minorities, the highs of homeownership are higher while the lows are lower.”
The research, published in the journal Urban Studies, was conducted to investigate what owning a home means to blacks, Latinos, and whites and whether homeownership could lead to neighborhood dissatisfaction in poor communities.
Analyzing data gathered in 2001 by the Los Angeles Family and Neighborhood Survey and the 2000 Census, Greif discovered that whites had significantly higher rates of homeownership than blacks and Latinos. Whites were also most likely to live in “desirable” areas with stronger property values, better services, and greater prestige.
The findings also suggest that whites may not experience the extreme highs and lows that minorities do in regard to homeownership.
For example, buying a home in a prestigious area may not rouse the same sense of pride and achievement for whites that it does for blacks and Latinos. And living in a disadvantaged community may not spark the same level of concern for whites either.
“Whites have more of an economic buffer,” said Greif. “There is less at stake for them one way or the other.”
For blacks, owning a home, especially one in a more advantaged community, may feel like conquering the odds. The feelings are similar for Latinos, many of whom are immigrants hoping to assimilate socially and economically. However, black and Latino homeowners are significantly less likely to be able to buy homes in the neighborhoods that would elicit those feelings.
In 2002, the median net worth of white households was 15 times greater than black households and 10 times greater than Latino households; therefore, minorities put a much greater chunk of their net worth into buying a home. So when minorities experience neighborhood deterioration — graffiti, litter, abandoned buildings — they may be far more stressed over the threat to their central asset.
Overall, the findings showed that homeowners in general are more sensitive to their communities than renters — in both good and bad ways. Homeownership can encourage stronger neighborhood satisfaction in advantaged communities but weaken it in less advantaged ones.
“These findings speak to the ongoing dialogue surrounding the benefits of homeownership — and for whom,” Greif said.
Source: Johns Hopkins University