A Study About Discriminatory Loan Practices Today

According to the Federal Reserve, the average wealth of a white household was about six times greater than that of the average African American household and five times greater than the wealth of the average Latino household in 2013. Racial disparities in wealth grew wider than they’d been in decades after the 2008 recession, and led to disinvestment in neighborhoods and unequal opportunities for individuals who were of different races. What’s the culprit for this imbalance and inequality? Limited access to “good homes in high-quality neighborhoods,” according to BYU Sociology professor Jacob Rugh, among others. And the culprit for this limited access? High cost, high risk loans. When borrowing to purchase homes in past years, African American borrowers were two times more likely to receive a subprime loan that white borrowers.

Jacob Rugh
Copyright BYU Photo 2012
All Rights Reserved

Rugh and researchers like him are honing their interest on the changes made to the federal loan system in the years leading up to the US housing crisis and how this system created higher risk loans for minorities, perpetuating racial residential segregation in urban America. In a recent article co-authored by Dr. Rugh, he and his colleagues shared their analysis of 220 accounts in recent fair lending federal court cases involving discriminatory lending practices. The largest take-away? Loan originators utilized a number of mechanisms to identify and gain the trust of African American and Latino borrowers to place them in higher-cost and higher-risk loans.


The Past vs. Today- Same Issue, Different Way

“Historically,” says Rugh, “[the racial] disparities [in wealth] have been driven by multiple forms of discrimination…including white mob violence against African-Americans trying to move into formerly all-white neighborhoods, municipal segregation ordinances prohibiting residence by blacks on predominantly white blocks, …racially restrictive covenants barring the future sale of a property to non-whites, [and] redlining, or [denying] credit to [individuals in] non-white residential areas.”

Multiple studies have already documented that African American and Latino borrowers were frequently charged more for mortgage loans than similarly-situated white borrowers. What makes Rugh et al’s study unique is that it identifies the specific institutional- and individual-level mechanisms used to perpetuate those actions.

In the 1980s and 1990s, several federal legislative acts were passed to ensure that minorities were not being excluded from loan or housing opportunities. These new lending practices, however, also made loan profits come largely from fees and the gap between the prevailing interest rate index and the rate paid by the borrower. Enticing loan officers to go for quick profits, loan originators began to exploit rather than exclude minorities as they offered these individuals risky, high-cost financial services that only furthered financial and societal disparities between whites and minorities.

Adobe Spark (34)


Tactics in Unfair Lending


Steering mortgage borrowers toward subprime loans, even if they qualified for prime loans, became common practice for many loan originators. “Put quite simply, loan originators wishing to maximize profits had to convince customers with good credit to accept higher cost, higher risk lending products,” says Rugh et al, whose analysis shows that originators explicitly targeted neighborhoods with large shares of black and Latino residents for those high-cost loans. They sought data sources that were thought to indicate a lack of financial sophistication and a desire for credit in the individuals listed, mailed “live” draft checks of $1,000 to $1,500 to people with medium to low credit scores, and if those checks were cashed, turned them into loans with interest rates as high as 29% and then targeted those individuals for home equity refinance loans.

Perhaps worse, though, or more indicative of motivation based on race, were the methods they used to gain the trust of those potential borrowers. According to Rugh, “qualitative evidence suggests that loan originators often gained the confidence of potential borrowers through the use of trusted co-ethnic intermediaries in community service organizations and churches. Solicitations for high-cost subprime loans in predominantly black communities were promoted through ‘wealth building seminars’ held in churches and community centers at which ‘alternative lending’ was discussed. No such solicitations were made in predominantly white neighbourhoods or churches (Jacobson, 2010). Some loan institutions made marketing materials that directly targeted minority individuals. In one case, a loan officer stated that his office held the attitude that minority customers “weren’t savvy enough to know they were getting a bad loan.”


Making Needed Changes

In 2010, the Dodd-Frank Act was passed, making necessary changes to the federal loan system and prohibiting loan originators from steering borrowers into higher cost loans when they qualify for better mortgages. Racial residential segregation and the “wide gap in social distance between decision-makers at mainstream financial institutions and communities of color,” however, remains an issue today, according to Rugh and others. What can policymakers, lenders, consumer protection groups, and individuals do to discourage such practices? In a 2015 study done by Rugh of the Baltimore housing market, he suggested:

  • implementing or advocating the implementation of increased civil rights enforcement by institutionalizing ongoing audits and other cost-effective means to monitor racial disparities and increase transparency in ways that remediate systematic patterns at the level of structure and policies rather than isolated acts of individuals.
  • offering only safe, fixed-rate mortgages and down payment ratios that make home ownership, wealth accumulation, and social mobility accessible for borrowers of color.
  • owning other assets besides a mortgage, thus reducing your risk.


Relief and Recovery: How Do Disasters Disrupt Routine Behavior?

How do disasters affect communities? If you’ve followed the impacts of the recent Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, or Central Mexico earthquake disasters, or if you’ve ever experienced one yourself, you’ll know that the devastation varies from place to place and from disaster to disaster. It can often take years to assess the damage and to reach a new normal. Even harder to assess, though, but in some ways more important, are the effects of various disasters on the people, over time. In a recently published study, sociology professor Michael Cope found that Louisiana communities affected by the 2010 BP oil spill traversed the road to recovery in widely different ways, depending on their core industries, and that community sentiment, in general, served as a protective factor that ameliorated lifestyle disruptions.



What happened in the BP oil spill?

The Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig, contracted by British Petroleum (BP) exploded in April 2010, about 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The wreck killed 11 people, and the rig spewed millions of gallons of oil for months before scientists finally stopped the flow. At the time of the oil spill, Louisiana produced 25 percent of the nation’s seafood. The state was also the nation’s second largest producer of natural gas and third largest producer of petroleum. The U.S. government placed strict short-term restrictions on fishing and drilling in areas affected by the oil spill, and the fishing industry suffered for years as a result of the oil spill’s impact on the environment.

How did the oil spill affect the community?

Research on people’s general reactions to disasters shows that those disasters have to be viewed not as “single-point-in-time events, but as processes of social disruption that play out over time.” Dr. Cope’s research relied on a telephone survey administered to people living in communities affected by the oil spill. The survey was conducted in five waves, with the first wave administered while the oil spill was active and the last wave administered in April 2013.

The results suggest that the oil spill disrupted people’s routine behaviors (including sleeping and working). The extent of disruption lessened over time, as people’s behaviors normalized again, but people who worked in (or had relatives working in) the fishing industry experienced the most disruption. This makes sense, given the devastating short-term and long-term impact of the oil spill on their livelihood. Too, residents of affected communities reported disrupted lives three years after the spill.

The good news? People who demonstrated positive sentiment toward their communities (in other words, people who liked the places where they lived) experienced less disruption than others did. Their positive community sentiment buffered the effect of the oil spill on their routine behaviors.

What next?

Dr. Cope, an FHSS professor who co-authored this article with a team from Louisiana State University, wrote that issues like disaster recovery warrant continued attention and research. “This study,” they said, “adds to the chorus of researchers who have long contended that planners need to recognize disasters as social processes linked to long-term antecedents and long-term consequences.”



Student News: The BYU Farmers’ Market and How it Creates Community

Autumn is well under way, but there are still a few weeks left in BYU’s own farmers’ market. While students might not necessarily think of that market as important to their experience here, it can in fact provide them with multiple benefits, not the least of which is a greater sense of community. Research is beginning to show that that sense has started to erode with the explosion in popularity of online shopping, and is something that many scholars, including Professor Michael R. Cope, in our department of sociology, have studied. In that sense, farmers’ markets in general could be seen not only as a boon to students, but also a solution to societal problems.

Benefits to Students of Farmers’ Markets

  • connecting with your local community: You see other students on campus every single day, but you might not often get the chance to interact with local families and businesses. This is one way to immerse yourself in the experience of college life, a period most often experienced only once in a lifetime.
  • getting access to fresh produce: Now that you’ve been back at BYU for a month, you’re probably ready to eat something besides ramen or spaghetti. Give your physical health a boost by adding fresh produce to your diet.
  • experiencing local culture: In addition to offering produce, the farmers’ market includes booths for baked goods and arts and crafts. There are often live music performers present, so you can also become more familiar with the local music scene. It’s a way to “live in the experience,” as Michael Featherstone, an alum of our Economics department, said in their most recent magazine.
  • making grocery shopping fun
  • making a difference in the community

BYU’s Farmers Market takes place every Thursday afternoon through October 26 in the south parking lot of the LaVell Edwards stadium.

What other value do farmers’ markets provide?

The Sociology Behind Farmers’ Markets

“As our local communities increasingly shed their traditional production and consumption functions,” said Professor Cope in a 2016 study, “they may also increasingly fail to imbue their residents with identity and connections to larger social realities.” In other words, the less goods a community produces and the fewer goods bought within that community, the higher the likelihood that its residents will feel “hyper-individualized.” The good news is that research strongly suggests that farmers’ markets tie communities together as civic-minded people converge. The Local Food Movement (LFM) is a project that champions that cause and backs many of the 8,000 farmers’ markets around the country. It aims to help communities develop more self-reliant and resilient food networks, improve local economies; and have an impact on the health, environment, community, or society of a particular place.

From a sociological standpoint, their objectives are admirable, possibly even necessary. The bad news: despite that, farmers’ markets aren’t always inclusive. The number of female shoppers is significantly higher than the number of male shoppers, and shoppers are disproportionately white and highly educated. But it’s important not to view the LFM as an egalitarian movement taking on the Goliath of agribusiness. Instead, Wheaton College sociologist Justin L. Schupp suggests that “the more interesting prospective framing of the LFM could have the movement admitting its potential for intra-group stratification while working further toward its stated goals of the democratization of food access.”

Vendors and shoppers at farmers’ markets have the right idea, but they would increase their community impact if they operated in more low-income neighborhoods and attracted a wider variety of people.

The Geography Behind Farmers’ Markets

Common sense tells us that farmers’ markets bring communities together, but it doesn’t fully explain how or why that happens. Interacting with other people fosters a sense of community, but can geography teach us something about farmers’ markets as well, their benefits to students, and their role in creating more unified communities? While shoppers can find farmers’ markets all across the United States, there is geographic disparity in their distribution. There are higher percentages of farmers’ markets in communities in California, New York, and Midwestern states than in southern states; farmers’ markets are also more common in urban areas than in rural areas. Are those communities more tight-knit or egalitarian? Do many students shop at farmers’ markets?

While research doesn’t yet point to direct answers to those questions, it does show that those who do shop at those markets tend to not visit the markets nearest to their own homes, and that the LFM has a ways to go in terms of helping to establish farmers’ markets in more low-income and ethnically-diverse neighborhoods (Schupp, 2016).



The Status Quo of Farmers’ Markets

Be that as it may, farmers’ markets continue to grow not only in number but in symbolic value. From 1984 to 2001, farmers sold goods in a large market at the base of the World Trade Center, but the morning of 9/11 was the market’s last day of operation — until June 20, 2017. The newly reopened market is located next to the Oculus. Security is tighter than you’d find at another farmers’ market, but vendors are fairly optimistic about its future.

In fact, the entire future of American farmers’ markets is bright. The number of markets has boomed since the 1970s, and it doesn’t look like they’re going out of style anytime soon.



Men Who Do Housework, and Men Who Don’t

If you’ve been following FHSS‘s blog for long, you’ve seen our posts about sociology professor Dr. Renata Forste and her research on the gendered division of housework. She gave the 2016 Cutler Lecture on this subject, her area of expertise. More and more women are joining the workforce (accounting for 46.8% of the U.S. labor force), which means that families are evolving to share responsibilities between parents. During her Cutler Lecture, Dr. Forste cited Arlie Hochschild’s book The Second Shift, which suggests that men who do housework…

  • have a strong male identity.
  • have a more holistic, nuanced notion of their role as fathers.
  • have wives who facilitate their involvement in household chores.
  • don’t work late hours at the office.
  • have learned not to view housework as women’s work.
  • have happier family lives.

And the media is catching up too. Marketers are beginning to target men in advertisements for cleaning products, Dr. Forste said, and today’s men “have a more elaborate notion of fathering than previous generations.”

Dr. Forste’s full lecture is available here.

This post is thirtieth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

Housework and Family Satisfaction: A Short Video

One may be surprised to learn that over half of married couples cite shared housework as paramount to a successful marriage. They place it above income, children, religious beliefs, and concordance in political beliefs.  Sociology professor Dr. Renata Forste has researched the stalled revolution of gendered division housework and how our modern culture devalues that work. At the 2017 Cutler Lecture, she further illuminated this pressing issue.

She found that in terms of housework, both women and men were more likely to do the chores stereotypically associated with their gender; women did laundry, cleaning, and cooking while men took out the trash, mowed the lawn, and acted as the handyman. She further found that “women…report doing more than their fair share of housework whereas men report doing less than their fair share.” It is clear that both genders understand that the imbalance of housework is unfair.

“If both the partnership do laundry, buy groceries, and take care of sick family members the workload is reported as fair. Especially if both partners share in cleaning the house, respondents were almost three times more likely to perceive the distribution of household work as fair. So sharing housework is predictive of doing one’s fair share, which is predictive of family satisfaction,” said Dr. Forste.

This post is twenty-fifth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

Why do Women do Most of the Housework?

We’ve mentioned recently what sociology professor Renata Forste’s research says about the stalled revolution of the gendered division of housework, and about how we as a society tend to devalue such work. Her comments at a 2017 Cutler Lecture provide further illumination as to why women still do the lion’s share of housework,”

  • Relative resources: “According to this perspective, the more resources or power a person has in relation to his or her spouse,” said Forste, “the easier it should be to bargain one’s way out of routine housework.” Thus, if a man makes more money than his wife, the implicit (or explicit) agreement is that he should not have to do as much housework. However, research shows that, even when women are equal to men in terms of what they bring in, they do more housework.
  • Time availability: Since time is a resource, the amount of time spouses or partners work outside the home would seem to have a direct impact on their share of housework. It doesn’t have as much as an effect as one would think, though.
  • Awareness: Men are not always aware when it is necessary to do housework.

Forste encourages men and women to “view [housework as] regular maintenance, rather than women’s work, [which will] change how we share the load and how we think about it.”

To view the full lecture, click here

This post is twenty-fourth in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

How to Actually Help Your Kids Develop Empathy?

Ninety-six percent of parents consider it “very important, if not essential” that their children have “strong moral character,” according to a 2012 study done by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, but only 20% of youth actually prioritized caring above achievement and personal happiness, in a 2014 Harvard study. BYU industrial design student Alison Brand and sociology student Marissa Getts recently spoke in a 2017 BYU TED talk about the importance of cultivating empathy in youth, which parents seem to understand, and effective ways to do so, which they might need assistance implementing to help children better overcome what may be seen as the natural selfishness of youth. “By actively and deliberately cultivating empathy in young people,” they said, “we empower them to create positive change in their communities and in the world.”


What is empathy? Getts defines it as the ability of one person to step into another’s shoes, imagine what they are feeling, and feel it with them. What would happen if no one possessed empathy? “Self-interest would reign. Anger, aggression, bullying would be more common than not. And we wouldn’t try to understand what people were feeling and think,” said Brand. Such actions could have a deleterious effect on one’s relationships from childhood to the relationships between countries.

By contrast, an empathetic world “is a world filled with kindness and compassion.” In it, people would be able to have positive interactions with both close friends and strangers.

Fostering Empathy

How does one foster empathy? Getts and Brand recently interviewed young change-makers between the ages of 13-20 who were engaged in empathetic social innovation. Their projects included the construction of a Braille printer from Legos and the successful creation and implementation of an anti-bullying program in their school. They found that each of these children got to where they were through three milestones: 

  • Spark: “an experience or something they learned that made them feel deep empathy for a person or a problem” 
  • Action: this experience so impacted the children that they took action
  • Validation: adults validated them, which helped them take their actions or projects further. “It was only because the adults in their lives didn’t snuff out their flame that they were able to accomplish such great things,” said Brand.

 In each of the interviews, the youth cited the importance of their parents’ support. Furthermore, Getts and Brand reported that nearly all of the youth said that their parents initially said no to their project ideas but amended their answer after the child persisted or that they were surprised when their parents were in favor of their idea. “Somehow, parents have become either a real barrier or a perceived barrier to a child developing empathy and creating positive social change off of that,” explained Getts.

How does one rectify that? The speakers offered the following suggestions: pexels-photo-355948

  • Foster an environment for ‘sparking.’ Help children meet new people and have new, foreign experiences
  • Encourage exploratory action. “It’s crucial that we step back and let these youth take appropriate risks. We need to teach them that learning, not perfect execution, is success,” said Brand.
  • Provide positive validation wherever possible. Whether it’s feedback or money, any form of validation can help a child pursue their idea and go further than anyone might expect.

Men build too many walls and not enough bridges,” said Joseph Fort Newton. This can be redressed by fostering empathy in youth. By allowing them to spark and take action, while offering affirmation, we enable them to feel with and for others and therefore change the world.

What are your ideas for fostering empathy in kids?


Why do we Devalue Housework?

We mentioned last week the tendency cited by sociology professor Renata Forste that Americans tend to have to devalue housework- it’s women’s work and therefore not difficult. What effect has assumption had? She cited a quote from Hanover Sociology professor Robin Ryle: “One of the most important end results of the doctrine of separate spheres was the creation of not just a difference in how we think about what men and women do but also a hierarchy in how those tasks are valued.”


To view the full lecture, click here.

This post is twenty-second in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

Do We Devalue Housework?

“Housework is something you do that nobody notices until you don’t do it,” said BYU sociology professor Renata Forste in a recent lecture on the devaluation of housework and its relationship to women. In our society, she explained, we do not value housework, certainly not as highly as paid labor, because it’s less visible and cleaning the home and doing laundry have been chiefly done by females. An underlying assumption seems to have been formed that “if women can do it, it must not be that important or that hard.”

But, Forste posited, housework is just as integral and essential as paid labor, and should be valued and shared, for a variety of reasons. She discussed why here, but you can watch a brief highlight here:

Froste is the director of BYU’s Kennedy Center as well as a professor in the sociology department.

This post is twenty-second in a series of videos available in our new BYU Social Sciences YouTube channel! The channel contains tidbits of many of our most popular lectures and useful, succinct, research-backed advice on relationship, political, religious, media, and financial issues. Follow us there to stay up-to-date on wisdom that will help you and your family live better lives.

Fulton Winner Found That Sibling Size Affects Risky Behavior

Does the number of brothers and/or sisters one has help or hinder individuals in their life goals? BYU student Tiana Hoffmann sought to answer that question through her 2017 Fulton Conference poster. In her sociology class, she learned that the amount of siblings one has directly affects educational results. This prompted her to ask the question: Does sibship size, or the number of children of a particular set of parents, also affect other outcomes? Tiana found that, at least in the early 80s, the more siblings an adolescent had, the more likely he or she was to try drugs or sex at a younger age. However, the age at which they began smoking and drinking rose if they had more siblings.


What does this mean for the everyday American? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in the year 2015, 15.9% of those aged 12-17 said that they had used illicit drugs in their lifetime. If you include marijuana in that category- illegal in most states- then the number rises to 25.3%. SAMHSA further found that in the same year and age category,  17.3% and 28.4% had used tobacco products and alcohol respectively. These are serious issues and any research that can be used to better understand and predict adolescent behavior is of paramount importance.


Further Research and Implications

Of her results, Tiana said: “I was definitely very intrigued by the results. I was surprised that a higher number of siblings had opposite effects depending on the outcome.” As for where her research will go next, she added: “I would love to be able to test if birth order makes an impact on the decisions adolescents make. Perhaps, their behavior has less to do with the number of siblings they have in their family and more to do with where they fall in their family. Additionally, I would love to perform the same tests on a newer data set since the data I pulled from was collected in 1979-82. It is possible that we may find much different results when testing with data that is more current.”

What does she hope will happen as a result of her research? “I believe that as a social scientist, it is my responsibility to perform research that matters for people and could impact the way they choose to live their lives. But, I think that people should always be thinking critically about the research that is put out there and make sure that they are considering their own personal circumstances. My results were varied and found that higher sibship had both a positive and negative impact on adolescents depending on the outcome…. I want my research to encourage people to think critically and dig deeper into possible reasons why adolescents engage in risky behavior.”

Fulton Conference

Of her experience with the Fulton Conference, Tiana said: “I had a great time. The conference was very well organized and I felt very accomplished as I presented my research to people who seemed to be very interested in the results. I am obviously very grateful for my mentor, Dr. Mikaela Dufur, and the encouragement and guidance she gave me through the process.”

What do you think of this research?