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Eroding the Wealth of Women: Gender and the Subprime Foreclosure Crisis

The Graduate Center of the City University of New York

This article considers how mortgage markets evolved beyond protective legislation, creating a policy gap conducive to new forms of gender inequity in housing and lending. In the early 2000s, single women represented the fastest-growing group of homeowners in the United States, but they also experienced higher rates of risky lending than their male peers, even when controlling for financial profile. To date, the only policy protecting women’s access to credit was enacted before the neoliberal shift of the 1980s, when economic discrimination against women amounted to exclusion from the market economy. In the recent subprime era, risky lending eclipsed the established prime market, injecting high levels of risk into the mortgage pool and creating a vacuum of opportunity for lenders and a mirage of opportunity for groups historically excluded from the market. This shift leaves single women, particularly women of color, immersed in a fragmented lending market characterized by high levels of default and foreclosure.