Home is Where You Make It!

One of the most prolific poets of our time, Dr. Maya Angelou [1], once said that “the ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” It’s true – most of us seek a place to call our own – striving to achieve the American dream:  The house, the picket fence, a family, and even the dog.  The dream often refers to owning a home and being financially secure, also known as owning a piece of the “American pie.”

A review of research and online articles related to homeownership among African Americans produced some disturbing findings:

  • A significant gap exists between White and Black homeownership [2], [3], and the gap has remained the same today as it was in 1970 [4]. In 2019, the national White homeownership rate is 72.2% compared to the Black homeownership rate of 43% [3].
  • African Americans who do own a home are more likely to be unsatisfied with their neighborhoods then their White counterparts [5].
  • Fair housing is a long way from being realized and the fight continues today [6].
  • Housing vouchers (when needed) are not accepted by all landlords, and those who do accept them may be contributing to segregated communities [4].
  • African Americans are more impacted by foreclosures than any other race [7].

Experts agree that the fight to increase African American wealth through homeownership will require a multipronged approach, such as strategic financial planning, fair government policies and practices, and equitable banks [4], [6], [8]; and yet, I was relieved to read about success stories of high homeownership among African Americans in certain geographical locations [9], [10] or what is sometimes called “census tracts.”  I was struck by an article that described a community of “majority-black grand houses, gated mansions and a world-class golf course” [9, p. 1].  After careful review, it became clear that even these cases did not materialize easily.  Realtors became involved and sent Black and White home buyers to sellers to unmask discrimination, and lawsuits were filed when there was evidence of unfair practices.  Henderson [9] also points to the apparent relationship between active fair housing and social justice activity.  It then occurred to me that the hardest part about “fair” housing laws, is not just passing them, but the implementation (i.e., proving that the law is applicable and has been broken).  This struck me as something worth remembering.

Homeownership has often been used as a metric to measure affluence and upward mobility.  It is regarded as a way to produce generational wealth, meaning that children whose parents own a home are likely to inherit the home from their parents, and pass that “wealth” on to them.  This is undoubtedly true as inherited property provides the receiver with a higher financial starting point then someone who might start with little or nothing at all.

This sounds great, but what should be done when you don’t expect to inherit a home?  In my quest to explore action that can be taken to increase homeownership, wealth, and financial security, there were a few interesting takeaways.  First, purchasing a home in the traditional sense might not be the solution for everyone.  In fact, you can create generational wealth in other ways.  Please check out Suze Orman’s [11] video before you proceed.  The video is less than 2 minutes.


It now makes sense - creating generational wealth is about taking advantage of the financial opportunities available to you – and sometimes wealth doesn’t involve or require homeownership.  If you can afford to buy a home, then do it (by all means), but if you cannot afford to buy a million dollar condo in New York, then (as mentioned in the video) “don’t.”  Instead, rent a place that you can afford comfortably and then go invest the rest of your money.  That’s right – put your money to work for YOU, and then explore options that can establish the type of generational wealth that you would like your heirs to inherit.  This goes back to one of my earlier articles – you’ve got to Pay Yourself First.

In closing, Dr. Angelou was right: many of us ache for a place to call home.  Just remember that home is still WHERE you make it, but generational wealth is about HOW you make it.  A quick note - there are many great references below.  Feel free to review them, as they provide more information than I ever could.  Until the next time – Black Research Matters!


[1]  Angelou, M. (1987).  All God’s children need traveling shoes.  New York: Vintage Books.
[2]  McCargo, A., & Strochak, S. (2018).  Mapping the black homeownership gap.  Urban Institute.
Retrieved from https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/mapping-black-homeownership-gap
[3]  McMullen, T., & Henry, J. (2019).  The heartbreaking decrease in Black homeowners.  Washington Post.
Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2019/02/28/feature/the-heartbreaking-decrease-in-black-homeownership/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3eb483b6c8aa
[4]  Johnson, A. (2018).  Fair housing issues:  A call for mandated housing integration.  University of Toledo Law Review, 50(1), 107-133.
[5]  Li, Y., Wenning, M. V., & Morrow-Jones, H. A. (2013).  Differences in neighborhood satisfaction between African American and White homeowners during the early 2000s.  Housing and Society, 40(2), 124-149.
[6]  Capps, K. (2018).  Is the fight for fair housing over?  CityLab.
Retrieved from https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/08/is-the-fight-for-fair-housing-over/568090/
[7]  Bocian, D. G., Li, W., & Ernst, K. S. (2010).  Foreclosures by race and ethnicity:  The demographics of a crisis.  Center for Responsible Lending.
Retrieved from http://www.responsiblelending.org/mortgage-lending/research-analysis/foreclosures-by-race-and-ethnicity.pdf
[8]  Desilver, D, & Bialik, K. (2017).  Blacks and Hispanics face extra challenges in getting home loans.  Pew Research Center.
Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/10/blacks-and-hispanics-face-extra-challenges-in-getting-home-loans/
[9]  Henderson, T. (2018).  Where Black homeownership is the norm.  The PEW Charitable Trusts.
Retrieved from https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/08/15/where-black-homeownership-is-the-norm
[10] Scott, A.  (2019).  Closing the homeownership gap in Houston and beyond.  Marketplace.
Retrieved from https://www.marketplace.org/2019/01/30/economy/closing-homeownereship-gap-houston-and-beyond
[11]Skid, N. (Producer). (2018, Oct 12).  Suze Orman:  You don’t need to buy a home to be financially secure.  CNBC Make It.  Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/video/2018/10/12/suze-orman-you-dont-need-to-buy-a-home-to-be-financially-secure.html

By Faye Jones, Ph.D.
Research Analyst, Black News Channel
Faculty Researcher, Florida State University

Black Research Matters is about empowering our readers with research about themselves, and specifically to inspire and educate our communities with information about the latest innovations and research related to, and developed by, African Americans. As a community, we must know about research that is about us, for us, and from us. Black Research Matters provides an opportunity for both academicians to share information and for the Black community to ask questions and share their experiences. Together we will explore and dissect issues from all angles, but most importantly address how these issues impact Black America. Future themes will be based on your suggestions, and include research topics in health, politics, the economy, finance, education, religion, sports and so much more. BNC welcomes your suggestions, so please send research topics that you are interested in to Dr. Jones.

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