SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER
Wealth in America has its roots in land ownership, with branches that reach forward to the devaluation of property based on race seen today. Andre Perry conducts research based on this idea. He will be giving a lecture on devaluation at 1 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 13 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform, as part of the African American Heritage House Lecture Series, this week focused on “The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?”
Perry is a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program, a scholar-in-residence at American University and a columnist for The Hechinger Report. He is also the author of the book Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities. His research focuses on race, structural inequality, education and economic inclusion.
Erroll B. Davis Jr., president of the African American Heritage House, said that AAHH focuses on and is invested in archival research because he believes that the history must first be correct in order for the cascade of information and interpretations that come from it to do justice to the narrative.
Davis invited Perry because of his research on the devaluation of Black-owned properties and businesses. Perry’s research, said Davis, has its roots in how wealth in America has historically been driven by the possession of land and the appreciation of land values.
Perry grew up in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, a small, primarily Black municipality near Pittsburgh, where he was informally adopted by a woman named Elsie Boyd when his biological parents were unable to care for him. It was growing up in this environment that first got him interested in the subject of property devaluation.
In his research, he looks at median Zillow and census data for average list price in a given neighborhood, and found that as the Black percentage of the population went up, the average list price went down. He also used structural characteristics, like number of rooms, education rates, crime, walkability and other zone metrics as controls, to ensure that all the comparisons were fair.
He found that homes in Black neighborhoods are undervalued and underpriced by 23%, which comes out to approximately $40,000 per home. Cumulatively, across the United States, this comes out to about $156 billion in loss of equity for Black Americans.
“Whenever something goes wrong in a Black neighborhood, we blame the people,” Perry said. “We talk about culture, we talk about sagging pants and hairstyles, and the use of the N-word. But we don’t look at the policies that led to the devaluation of property.”
In the future, Perry hopes to see a deliberate effort to remove the dregs of racism from the housing market in terms of negative lending behavioral patterns. He also hopes to drive the point home that past policy still negatively impacts Black Americans — and will continue to do so until the policy is corrected.