A couple of studies have crossed my electronic desk, and I thought I'd share them with you, because both relate to topics I have written about in recent weeks.

The first is a Cornell University analysis, published in an article in the June issue of the American Sociological Review, contending that foreclosures "fueled racial segregation in the United States."

The paper, co-authored by Kyle Crowder of the University of Washington and Amy Spring of Georgia State University, acknowledges that nine million American families have lost their homes to foreclosure since the real estate downturn started in 2007.

"Hardest hit," they say, were African American, Latino, and racially integrated neighborhoods.

The researchers estimate that racial segregation grew between Latinos and whites by nearly 50 percent and between blacks and whites by about 20 percent as whites abandoned and minorities moved into areas heaviest with foreclosures.

The foreclosure crisis "spurred one of the largest migrations in U.S. history, changes that could alter the complexion of American cities for a generation or more," said the lead researcher, Michael Hall, an assistant professor at Cornell.

"Among its many impacts, the foreclosure crisis has partly derailed progress in achieving racial integration in American cities," he said.

Hall and his researchers looked at foreclosures between 2005 and 2009.

RealtyTrac, the foreclosure search engine, considers 2005 as the last year with what it terms a "normal" level of foreclosure filings - 500,000.

A single property may be represented by several filings as the financial and legal aspects of a foreclosure are worked out, says RealtyTrac, which is based in Irvine, Calif.

As of January, 5.5 million foreclosures had been completed since the financial meltdown of September 2008, says real estate data provider CoreLogic.

Homeownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, and since then seven million U.S. homes have gone into foreclosure, CoreLogic says.

Hall and his co-authors found that neighborhoods that were primarily black or Latino lost homes at rates three times higher than white neighborhoods.

They estimate that the typical neighborhood experienced 4.5 foreclosures per 100 homes during the crisis, but that the figure rose to 8.1 and 6.2 homes in predominantly black and Latino areas, respectively. White neighborhoods lost 2.3 homes on average, they said.

As foreclosures "buried minority and racially mixed communities, their white populations shrank and black and Latino populations swelled," they said.

White households were significantly more likely to leave areas with high foreclosure rates. Black and Latino families entered those neighborhoods from necessity or to seek affordable housing options.

"Not only were white households less likely to be foreclosed on, but they also were among the first to leave neighborhoods where foreclosures were high, particularly those with racially diverse residents," Hall said.

The other study, from the National Association of Realtors, said that while rising prices in many areas have helped homeowners build wealth in recent years, the continued decline in homeownership means the gains are going to fewer people and likely leading to worsening inequality in the country.

Realtors' chief economist Lawrence Yun said an underperforming labor market, not enough homes for sale, and tighter underwriting standards have caused the homeownership rate to plunge and renters' ranks to increase.

Yun said the inability of renter households to buy homes is leaving them behind financially.

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