A major divide in home ownership rates among minorities and whites has remained virtually unchanged from the 1990 Census to the fourth quarter of 2003, according to researchers at the University of Southern California Lusk Center for Real Estate.

Lusk Center researchers conducted a three-year study, funded by the National Association of Realtors, to study home ownership trends among blacks, Latinos and whites, and to find ways to bridge the divide in home ownership rates. The rate of white home ownership reached 75.5 percent nationwide last year, while black households were at 49.4 percent and Hispanic households reached 47.7 percent, researchers said. Stuart Gabriel and Gary Painter conducted the Lusk Center study.

“Racial segregation and home ownership disparities remain endemic to metropolitan housing markets. By researching the causes, we hope to find ways that public policy and financial markets can relieve the gaps in home ownership,” said Gabriel, director of the Lusk Center.

Painter, the center’s director of research, added, “That is crucial, because home ownership is the primary vehicle for wealth accumulation in America.”

The first part of this study analyzed 1990 Census data for Los Angeles County, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Future phases of the research will analyze data from the 2000 Census. “The 1990 data was especially rich and plentiful, yielding information on ethnicity, age, marital status, income, education levels, the number of people in a household and their origins,” Gabriel said.

Painter said 1990 data for Los Angeles County indicates that the vast majority of blacks choose to rent in Los Angeles city neighborhoods with established black populations. “The more affordable single-family homes are in outlying areas, such as San Bernardino and Riverside counties, but those areas have only recently begun to attract greater numbers of black households,” he said. A move to outlying suburbs is a distinct pathway to home ownership, but only a small percentage of black families moved outside the city of Los Angeles when their incomes rose, he added.

In the Washington, D.C., area, black homeowners were most likely to congregate in Maryland’s Prince Georges County, and in Chicago, the majority of black homeowners bought affordable properties in Gary, Ind., according to the research. Research data found that there were 2,215 white households and 4,866 black households in the Washington, D.C., area, and the home ownership rate was about 60.2 percent for whites and 35.3 percent for blacks.

Data also showed that black renters are concentrated in segregated areas that have high crime rates. “When a city works to lower crime rates, they are rewarded with stable neighborhoods that attract home buyers, employers and retailers that all bring in tax revenues,” Painter said.

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