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The whiter the neighborhood, the greater the penalty black renters pay, study shows

Sen. Scott and Rep. Gowdy on racial divides
Sen. Scott and Rep. Gowdy on racial divides in America 02:41

Regardless of what city they live in, what kind of house they call home or how integrated their neighborhood, black renters can be fairly certain they'll pay more than white renters for identical housing, a new study shows. 

What's more, the rental penalty they pay increases with the amount of white people who live in the neighborhood, the study finds.

That's particularly surprising given that a majority of Americans—of all racial and ethnic backgrounds—say they prefer to live in integrated neighborhoods.

The study, written by economists Dirk Early of Southwestern University, Paul Carrillo of George Washington University and Edgar Olsen of the University of Virginia, was made public this summer. It looks at an unusually large data set of 400,000 people spread across 50 metro areas. The black-renter penalty is a consistent phenomenon, it finds.

In neighborhoods that are less than 10 percent white, black renters pay on average 0.6 percent more than white renters for identical units. But in areas that are majority white, the rent difference for blacks is 2.4 percent higher.

As one policy analyst put it, "The amount of the exploitation is greater the more white the neighborhood." 

That's particularly troubling, the study authors write, because previous studies have suggested that discrimination in housing prices is one reason that black Americans' rates of homeownership are so much lower than for white Americans.

"Understanding racial rent differences is arguably even more important since nearly 60 percent of black households are renters," the authors write.

Their study underscores what many housing advocates have been saying for years: Despite laws forbidding racial discrimination and the gradual decline of all-white spaces, plenty of landlords continue to discriminate against black residents. 

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