This American Life episode on housing discrimination very misleading

Last week This American Life had an episode on housing discrimination, House Rules, which drew upon a ProPublica series, Living Apart – Fair Housing in America. The TAL episode began with a side-by-side comparison of the differing treatments of black and white renters-to-be by a super in Queens. Then it went back in time and focused on the long and arduous process of passing legislation to allow for equal access to housing, and then enforcing said legislation. The moral of the story is that things haven’t changed as much as you think they’ve changed. This moral is reinforced by the selective narrative framework of TAL.

As it happens though HUD has been doing broad surveys of the exact form that is outlined in the TAL episode. So I decided to browse the 2012 report. If you read the whole thing, you conclude that:

1) There is indeed discrimination against minorities.

2) But the differences are often on the margin. The stories in TAL are at the tails of the distribution, but people may be confused and assume they are ubiquitous.

For example, from the full report from HUD: “black, Hispanic, and Asian renters are all shown significantly fewer housing units than equally qualified whites. Blacks are shown about one fewer unit for every 25 visits; Hispanics are shown one fewer unit for every 14 visits; and Asians are shown one fewer unit for every 13 visits.” These are statistically significant differences, but probably less than what you might expect given the stories highlighted in the TAL episode. Additionally, the report makes clear that there has been a massive decline in housing discrimination since the 1970s.

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1 Response to This American Life episode on housing discrimination very misleading

  1. cynthia curran says:

    Well, they listen to much too stupid Joel Konkin that supported giving Hispanics lots of housing that couldn’t afford under George W Bush. Joel laments that whites in Orange County left manufacturing for selling high ended real estate to Asians. I hate Joel Konkin the Houston loving columnists. Houston has a lot of problem folks its abut 20 percent black and about 40 percent Hispanic but Joel konkin ignores this as well as Houston Harris having about 3 times kids out of wedlock among those under 18 at a high 52 percent Silicon Valley which Joel hates has about 19 percent. Joel hates Silcon Valley because people don’t want to do low skilled manufacturing like sewing. They work in engineering, management and and so forth. Screw the low skilled manufacturing, stupid Joel Konkin doesn’t know that machines have taken more manufacturing jobs away than even outsourcing.

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