Under Construction: Race and Housing Markets in 21st-Century Urban America

Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Thesis Defense

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies

Elizabeth Korver-Glenn
Doctoral Candidate

Sewall Hall

Racial segregation continues to haunt U.S. cities. But, a full picture of why and how racial segregation persists at such high levels in contemporary urban America is less clear—in part because little is known about the contemporary, everyday operation of the housing market.To enrich understanding of the processes associated with the reproduction of segregation and other housing-related forms of racial inequality, I first conceptualize the housing market as an institution, or the intersection of several overlapping sets of stakeholders, the industries in which they work, and the federal forms and rules that affect their work. Then, I rely on a wide-and-deep methodological approach to collect data, conducting one year of ethnographic research and interviewing 102 housing market professionals and consumers across multiple housing market industries. I also conducted spatial analyses to triangulate across participant observation andrespondent narratives. The findings that emerged from this dissertation data collection are organized in three chapters. In each chapter, I describe different aspects of how the contemporary Houston housing market operates and how operations reproduce racial meaning and various forms of racial inequality. Overall, my dissertation demonstrates that the cumulative effects of apparently ‘non-racial’ housing market operations, such as (racially-distinct) social networks, the lax regulatory context of housing development, and the loose arrangement of housing market industries, intersect with several institutional practices to reproduce racial meaning and inequality in everyday housing transactions. I conclude by highlighting the theoretical, methodological, and policy contributions of my work and by offering suggestions for future areas of research.