A.D. White Statue in front of Goldwin Smith Hall

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February 14, 2017

Professor Links Incidences of Asthma to Unequal Banking Practices in the Mortgage Market

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The distribution of asthma incidences in Chicago — a city of great socio-economic segregation — is strongly correlated with the political economy of mortgage markets, argued Prof. Abigail Sewell, sociology, Emory University, in a lecture last Friday.

“Prior research documents higher rates of asthma among blacks, among people living in areas, children, in particular, in predominantly black neighborhoods, as well as among children living in neighborhoods with the whole host of living conditions known to be associated with asthma, such as poor air quality [and] noxious land,” Sewell said.

However, Sewell’s research goes beyond just health and race and considers the institutional norms and processes that contribute to the ghettoization that places individuals into these disadvantaged communities.

Sewell argued that “institutional structures” such as mortgage markets are “rooted in an ideology of race and occupy a formative role and framework” in access to better health environments.

“Blacks in particular are more likely to be in neighborhoods that are institutionally disadvantageous, however you look at it — high denial rates, less likely to be in neighborhoods where whites are more likely to get access to,” Sewell said.

The results of these unequal banking practices are discrimination and inequality in access, according to Sewell.

“The assumption has been that when minorities don’t get access to the goods of the mortgage market that this is bad for health,” Sewell said. “We need sustainable access — however, not all inclusion is inclusion.”