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50 Years After the Fair Housing Act – Inequality Lingers

By | April 19, 2018

Editor’s Note: In commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, Trulia is proud to partner with the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) to spotlight the importance of fair housing and the work that remains to achieve housing equity. This analysis was produced in partnership with NFHA and with input from the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University. Learn more about NFHA’s year-long 50th anniversary celebrations here.

“Trulia’s groundbreaking research is both compelling and disquieting. We often hear that where you live matters. This research vividly illustrates that statement clearly showing the inextricable link between place and opportunity. If you live in a community of color, your chances of having a grocery store, bank, park, doctor’s office, hospital or recreational facility in your neighborhood are slim. The drastic disparities represented in this research are possible because of persistent segregation which was caused by government and private market policies and practices. It is incumbent upon all of us to undo the harmful effects caused by systemic segregation and to build strong, viable communities that are full of the opportunities people need to thrive.” – Lisa Rice, NFHA President and CEO

It has been five decades since landmark legislation outlawed discrimination in housing, yet inequities persist. In commemoration of the 50thanniversary of the Fair Housing Act, Trulia and NFHA together examine how where you live matters, and specifically, how your neighborhood determines access to amenities that help people and communities thrive.

Across four metros—Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, and Oakland, Calif. — we find that features like banks, health services and parks are significantly less likely to be located in neighborhoods of color than in white communities. And, equally notably, alternative banking establishments like check-cashing services and pay day lenders are significantly more likely to be located in neighborhoods of color.

These findings align with Trulia’s previous research on housing disparities, which demonstrate that housing opportunities are unequal across racial and ethnic groups, both in terms of homeownership and rent burdens and how a market’s uneven housing values are related to racial and income segregation.

Using amenity data from Yelp and demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Trulia explored the relationship between the location of amenities and the demographic composition by census tract in Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Oakland, Calif. We chose these cities of focus in partnership with NFHA, seeking to explore cities that had their own unique geographies and histories with fair housing and segregation (see Methodology for current demographic breakdown in these metros). Our research finds:

  • Majority-nonwhite census tracts (where more than 50% of the population is made up of any combination of people of color, including Hispanics) across these four metros have 35.1% fewer traditional banking establishments than majority-white tracts, on average.
  • Across those four metros, there are twice as many alternative banking establishments, offering lower quality credit like payday loans and installment loans, in majority-nonwhite census tracts than majority-white tracts.
  • Driven by disparities in Houston and Oakland, majority-nonwhite census tracts across all four metros have 38.4% fewer healthcare service establishments than majority-white census tracts.
  • There are 33.9% fewer active or healthy lifestyle amenities such as parks, playground and recreation centers across the four metros in majority-nonwhite areas than majority-white census tracts.

In this report, we focus on four types of neighborhood amenities:

1) Financial Services

2) Health Services

3) Healthy Food

4) Fitness and Outdoor Activities


Business Types that Comprise Amenity Categories

Financial Services Health Services Healthy Food Fitness and Outdoor Activities
Traditional Alternative
· Banks  

· Credit unions

· Mortgage lenders

· Check cashing/ Pay-day loans  

· Debt relief services

· Installment loans

· Title loans

· Doctors  

· Hospitals

· Pharmacies

· Emergency rooms

· Medical centers

· Urgent care

· Dentists (General and Pediatric)

· Dental hygienists

· Pediatric dentists

· Optometrists

· Grocery  

· Farmers’ market


· Fruit and veggies

· International grocery

· Organic stores

· Specialty food

· Health markets

·       Parks  

· Gyms

· Playgrounds

· Recreation centers

· Baseball fields

· Basketball courts

· Senior centers

· Day camps


Comparing the racial makeup of census tracts across Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Oakland, there is a stark imbalance between the location of amenities in predominantly white communities and communities of color, as observable in the interactive map.

On a per person basis, majority-nonwhite areas have significantly fewer amenities such as traditional financial services, health services and fitness and outdoor amenities compared to majority-white areas. Majority-nonwhite tracts have 35.1% fewer traditional banking establishments, 38.4% fewer health care providers and 33.9% less fitness or outdoor amenities than majority-white tracts, on average.

We also examined healthy food access which is closely linked to health outcomes for communities, but the findings were mixed. On one hand, in Oakland, majority-Asian census tracts have nearly 90% more healthy food options than majority-white areas. In Detroit, however, majority-black census tracts have 37% fewer healthy food options than majority-white.



Traditional Financial Services Disproportionately Concentrated in Majority-White Areas


Access to mainstream financial services such as banks, credit unions and mortgage lenders enables individuals to save money securely, borrow funds safely and establish credit which can lead to building wealth and longer-term financial security. As we demonstrated earlier, majority-white tracts have more mainstream financial-service establishments than majority-nonwhite areas, and this holds true for all of the metros separately. Although the difference was not statistically significant in Oakland.





Looking at the differences by racial group, Houston showed the greatest disparity in proximity to traditional financial services. In Houston,  majority-white census tracts had 5.25-times the number traditional financial service establishments than majority-black tracts (and nearly 3-times that of majority-Hispanic tracts).





Likewise, the concentration of alternative financial services are disproportionately located in areas populated by people of color. These alternative finance providers number roughly at least twice as many in majority-nonwhite tracts than majority-white tracts in each of the four metros. Unlike mainstream financial services, alternative ones charge much higher fees, take deposits, and offer loans that do not help build credit histories. As a result, these institutions are seen as providing costlier credit.





Alternative financial services were more likely to be located in majority-Hispanic areas than majority-white in Oakland and Houston, while the largest differences in Detroit and Atlanta were between majority-black and majority-white census tracts.



Health Care Services, Fitness and Outdoor Activities Scarcer in Nonwhite Areas


Differences in proximity to health care providers and healthy activities can lead to different outcomes in overall health in the long term and impact life expectancy. Location is only one aspect of access to health services since affordable health care coverage also determines who can access health services. But the glaring differences between the number of health services providers and fitness or outdoor activities in white communities and communities of color provides a first look what this might mean in terms of health outcomes.



Driven by disparities in Houston and Oakland, majority-nonwhite census tracts live near 38.4% fewer healthcare service establishments than majority-white census tracts. In Oakland, majority-white census tracts have 41.0 healthcare service establishments per 10,000 people—11 times greater than the 3.7 health providers found in majority-Hispanic tracts. In Atlanta, majority-white tracts have 25.3 health care providers, compared to 9.8 in majority-black tracts.

Majority-white tracts enjoyed more amenities that promote an active life than nonwhite areas.  While across the four metros, majority-nonwhite tracts have nearly 40% fewer amenities such as parks, playground and recreation centers, the largest discrepancy is between majority-Hispanic areas in Oakland where there were 3.8 times the number of these types of amenities in majority-white areas. Elsewhere, in Houston there is less than one active life amenity in a majority-black or Hispanic census tract for every three in a majority-white area. Detroit was the only metro out of the four where differences were not statistically significant.

In summary, this analysis clearly demonstrates that where you live matters, and that significant differences exist in the types of financial institutions, health services, and fitness and outdoor options present in nonwhite versus white areas. The location of these amenities offer a first glimpse into the types of services and options are most readily available to which communities and suggests that the unevenness of housing opportunities for certain racial and ethnic groups is intimately related to the availability of quality services that help communities thrive.





Data for this report are comprised of Yelp business data (accessed March 2018) and the U.S. Census’ 2016 5-Year American Community Survey data on demographics for Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Oakland. These metros are demographically diverse; for instance, in Oakland Asians and Hispanic populations dominate communities of color, whereas in Atlanta and Detroit black populations are the largest nonwhite group.

Race-Ethnic Population Share (2016)

  Atlanta Detroit Houston Oakland
White Alone 55.1% 53.2% 65.7% 50.3%
Black Alone 33.5% 39.3% 17.2% 10.3%
Asian Alone 5.5% 3.0% 7.3% 23.0%
Hispanic 10.4% 5.6% 36.3% 23.6%


To produce the amenity access maps, we took U.S. Census data at the census tract level and overlaid it with Yelp business data and displayed it using Carto.Specifically, a census tract shapefile was produced for our metro areas of interest that contained the data on various population groups as a proportion of the overall population of a tract. Once mapped, toggle switches were added to allow the user to flip between different population groups.Yelp business data, categorized into the groups defined below, were then added to the map using latitude and longitude coordinates and color-coded based on their category.

The analysis providing summary statistics on the relationship between demographics and where these amenities are located are calculated using how many of these establishments are located in census tracts with a majority racial or ethnic group and normalizing by population. The groups examined included majority-white (more than 50% white), majority-Hispanic (more than 50% Hispanic), majority-black (more than 50% black), majority-Asian (more than 50% Asian), majority-nonwhite (where more than 50% of the population is made up of any combination of people of color, including Hispanics) and no single majority. The discussion of the analysis in this report focuses on differences between majority-white and majority-Hispanic, majority-black and majority-nonwhite areas since findings highlighted differences that were statistically significant at the 90% confidence level and above. While Asians have also been subject to systemic discrimination and faced segregation in the metros examined, the fact that there were only a few majority-Asian census tracts yielded little statistically significant results except for nearly twice as many healthy food options than majority-white tracts in Oakland and 4.5 more health care services in Houston.

Note that while Yelp business data offers several advantages such as being quite comprehensive in urban areas and is often up-to-date, we do realize the limitations of this data source as a complete compendium of consumer grade resource. However, Yelp-provided data remains a useful starting point and allows us to examine a number of amenities where data are otherwise time-lagged and scarce.