The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Black homeownership is as low as it was when housing discrimination was legal

I was scrolling through my Twitter feed and was stopped cold by a tweet about black homeownership rates.

The tweet said the gains made since the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968 have all been erased.

That tweet took me to a blog post by Margery Austin Turner, senior vice president for program planning and management at the Urban Institute. She was putting into perspective how far we’ve come in housing discrimination in 50 years.

The answer is: Far for a while, then things started to roll back.

“Until 1968, landlords could legally refuse to rent to African Americans and other people of color, and homeowners and real estate agents could refuse to show or sell them homes,” she writes. “Banks could deny mortgage loans based on a homebuyer’s race or a neighborhood’s racial mix. And white communities could pass zoning and land-use restrictions designed to keep people of color out. The federal Fair Housing Act declared these practices illegal, protecting people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home or applying for a mortgage loan.”

Progress was made. Black homeownership rates peaked before the housing crisis. Almost 50 percent of African Americans owned homes.

That was then.

This is now: “From 2000 to 2015, that gain was more than erased as forces within and beyond the housing market aligned to reduce the black homeownership rate to 41.2 percent,” according to Urban Institute researchers.

In 2015, the black homeownership rate was virtually unchanged since 1968. The homeownership rate among white Americans is about 64 percent.

Put another way, black homeownership is as low as it was when housing discrimination was legal.

“Owning a home can increase a family’s financial security, but black people and other minorities significantly lag behind white people in homeownership rates, a major factor contributing to the racial wealth gap,” the Urban Institute’s Alanna McCargo and Sarah Strochak wrote.

Read their research: Mapping the black homeownership gap

And more research from the Urban Institute: A closer look at the fifteen-year drop in black homeownership

From the Economic Policy Institute: 50 years after the Kerner Commission, black Americans are not economically equal

“Black Americans have clearly put a tremendous amount of personal effort into improving their social and economic standing, but that effort only goes so far when you’re working within structures that were never intended to give equal outcomes,” said economist Valerie Rawlston Wilson, director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy.

More perspective: Declining Black Homeownership Has Big Retirement Implications

Homeownership in America is still the golden ticket. People’s net worth is tied to their home and it can propel a family financially. The gains lost in homeownership by black families is a troubling trend that we need to reverse.

Color of Money question of the week
Has homeownership been the saving grace for your family’s legacy? Send your comments to In the subject line put “Homeownership.”

Live chat today
Please join me today at noon (ET) to talk about home-buying. My guest will be Ilyce R. Glink, a syndicated columnist and real estate guru and author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask,” last month’s Color of Money Book Club pick.

Here’s the review if you missed it: Should I rent or buy a home? That’s not the only question you should be asking.

Here’s the link to join the conversation.

Are mobile payments tricking you into leaving a larger tip?

As payments have gone more digital so, too, have the tips we leave for service workers. But have you noticed the suggested tipping percentages are often higher than is usually recommended?

So, in last week’s newsletter I asked: What do you do when steered toward a certain tipping percentage?

“I had to laugh at myself when I got into work and saw your column,” Katie from Rockville, Md., wrote. “On my way in, I caved and bought a bagel (I usually try to limit myself to stopping for breakfast once or twice a month) at a new spot, and was surprised to see I had the option of tipping on the Square payment system. For my $3 purchase, I think I was given the option of tipping $1, 2, or $3. I did select the ‘no tip’ option listed below the suggested tips. I feel bad when I run into these scenarios for about five seconds, and then I go back to thinking it’s crazy to be expected to tip a cashier for putting a bagel in a to-go bag for me. I’m not stopping in a charming bakery that would bring a pastry on a real plate to a table needed to be cleaned after I leave (in which case, I would be more inclined to tip). What has bothered me more is seeing it at a place like a self-serve frozen yogurt shop. I serve and package up the product myself, and then swipe with a card. Unless I somehow make a mess and spill yogurt on the floor that someone would have to clean, I wouldn’t tip.”

Patrick Brown of Los Angeles wrote, “About a month ago, I noticed on Grubhub that the tip amounts which automatically come up were a little high. After digging out the trusty calculator, I concluded that their tip amounts are based upon the food cost, plus the delivery fee. Now I whip out my calculator and tip for the food only. No more extra is given because I wasn’t paying attention. I’ve passed this tidbit on to everyone I know, too. If they chose not to pay attention, then their pocket is that much lighter.”

Leann from Leesburg, Va., wrote, “The prepopulated tipping thing makes me crazy. In a restaurant if they add in the 18 percent that is all they get. Tipping is supposed to be optional, so when you mandate it I don’t give you more. And I am usually a 20 percent plus tipper. With the technology apps that have the suggested tip amounts, I always choose the lowest. For the same reason. If you are going to try to ‘suggest’ (basically guilt me) in to a particular tip, I am going to give you the lowest amount. I think tipping needs to disappear. Tell me the full charge up front. Pay your workers a living wage.”

Jack of Lafayette, Colo., wrote, “A pizza restaurant where I buy takeout changed hands a year ago. The previous owner had the typical 15 percent, 10 percent and 20 percent tip recommendations. Even though it was carryout, I would tip the 15 percent. The new owner changed to recommendations of 25 percent, 29 percent and 33 percent. So now I do not tip any amount.”

“I tip well for good service,” said Gene SirLouis of the District. “I’m happy to! For bad service, I’ll usually tip less. For bad service, I’ll ask for a manager early in the service. Once I had service so bad that I left not a penny, and the waiter followed me out of the restaurant to ask me if I forgot to tip! I told him that he got exactly what he earned. Oh, and tipping people who didn’t do anything, like at the deli counter or for takeout? Forget about it.”

Steve from Baton Rouge, Louisiana wrote, “Your article was spot-on, every place I go the suggested tip is 20 percent or more. One shop had their tip menu set up to make it so difficult to tip anything below 20 percent or to leave a customized tip, that I asked for the manager to explain why they made it so difficult. His response was ‘If leaving a 25 percent tip is going to break you, you shouldn’t be dining here.’ That has made future dining selections all that much easier.”

“I don’t care about the default tip suggestions,” wrote Bob from Fredericksburg, Va. “ I can make sure that the person who serves me makes at least $15 an hour for the hour they work for me. I don’t eat out a lot or ride often in taxis, so I can afford it. I believe that there really is enough to go around, that someone else’s gain is not my loss.”

Cathy in Des Moines wrote, “Sometimes those automated things include the tax when figuring the tip, which is verboten. You tip on service (food), not tax.”

Ken from Albuquerque, wondered about the sliding scale tip amounts. Am “I wrong in believing that those credit card machine-calculated tips should be based only on the meal amount (not including tax) as opposed to the full amount of the check?”

Tip before tax? The answers vary. But here’s some good guidance: Do you have to give tips on the sales tax on your restaurant bill?

I’ll end this discussion on a note from Jennifer of College Park, Md., who wrote,”My nephew’s pastor in Columbus, Ohio, challenges his flock to tip ‘as much as the bill’ on occasion and really make a difference in someone’s day. We have done this when we are with him, and the wait staff response is the most beautiful thing.”

If any of you decide to take this challenge, let me know. Email me at

Color of Money columns this week
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Ways to increase your chances of an IRS audit and jail time

When it’s okay to say ‘I don’t’ as a wedding guest

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Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments. (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)

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