Blacks, Hispanics hit hard by subprime mortgage mess
A panel of experts explored the disproportionate impact of subprime mortgages on African Americans and Hispanics at an EPI panel discussion Thursday–the first event of the Institute’s new program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy. Speakers included Wilhelmina Leigh of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, who noted that 53% of home loans to African Americans in 2006 were of the high-cost, subprime variety. She blamed a legacy of discrimination combined with a recent federal push for higher homeownership rates by any means. Graciela Aponte of the National Council of La Raza, a former housing counselor, recalled ads in Spanish-language newspapers that promised zero-down 1% mortgages and other exotic vehicles that paid high commissions to the brokers who pushed them. She estimated that one in 12 home loans made to Latinos in recent years will end in foreclosure. Video of the event, which was moderated by Algernon Austin, who directs the program for EPI, will be posted soon at epi.org. Earlier in the week, EPI published a Snapshot by Austin that charts the discrepancies by race and ethnicity. Blacks and Hispanics were nearly twice as likely as whites to hold subprime mortgages, or about 50% versus 26%. Recent studies suggest that creditworthiness–alone or in combination with factors other than race–cannot account for the disparities, Austin wrote.
EPI-convened task force calls for a new approach to education policy
A task force of national policy specialists in education, social welfare, health, housing, and civil rights last week launched a campaign to break a decades-long cycle of reform efforts that have focused exclusively on setting accountability standards for schools. In ads in The New York Times and The Washington Post, the task force–convened by EPI’s President and Education Policy Director, Lawrence Mishel–called for a “Broader, Bolder Approach to Education” to raise achievement levels for disadvantaged children. The full statement and related materials can be found here. Please visit this page to add your signature to those who support this statement.
Bernstein advising Obama
EPI senior economist Jared Bernstein has been in the news as an unofficial economic policy advisor to presumed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, part of a team of advisors who span a wide range of economic philosophy. Bernstein, who is identified on the progressive end of that range, appeared in his new role on the Lehrer News Hour on June 10.
Health insurance crisis for young adults
Young adults, ages 19 to 29, are among the largest segments of the U.S. population without health insurance: 13.7 million lacked coverage in 2006. Many lose coverage at age 19 or upon high school or college graduation. Several states have passed laws to expand coverage of dependents up to age 24 or 25 under parents’ insurance policies. This policy change, in addition to two others–extending eligibility for public insurance programs beyond age 18 and ensuring that colleges require and offer coverage to full- and part-time students–could help uninsured young adults gain coverage and prevent others from losing it. EPI researcher Elise Gould co-authored a report exploring the issue, which was recently published by the Commonwealth Fund.
Faux and free trade
Jeff Faux, EPI’s founding president and distinguished fellow, debated ex-congressman Jim Kolbe at the annual meeting of the Council of Foreign Relations in early June. Faux has written extensively on trade and its impacts on typical workers. He argues for a more comprehensive approach to trade in North America, which would include strengthening labor rights and helping to ensure the development of a prosperous Mexican economy.