The Color of Law

The Color of Law

A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein

Just as the incomes of all working-class Americans, white and black, began to stagnate, single-family home prices began to soar. From 1973 to 1980, the African American median wage fell by one percent, while the average American house price grew by 43 percent. In the next decade wages of African American workers fell by another percent, while the average house price increased yet another 8 percent. By the time the federal government decided finally to allow African Americans into the suburbs, the window of opportunity for an integrated nation had mostly closed. In 1948, for example, Levittown homes sold for about $ 8,000, or about $ 75,000 in today’s dollars. Now, properties in Levittown without major remodeling (i.e., one-bath houses) sell for $ 350,000 and up. White working-class families who bought those homes in 1948 have gained, over three generations, more than $ 200,000 in wealth. Most African American families—who were denied the opportunity to buy into Levittown or into the thousands of subdivisions like it across the country—remained renters, often in depressed neighborhoods, and gained no equity.

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