Homeownership Experiences Following Criminal Justice Contact

Brielle Bryan

Recent work has highlighted the significance of incarceration for wealth accrual and black-white gaps in homeownership, but the monetary sanctions and disruptions to employment that often accompany even low-level criminal justice contact may also have important consequences for individual homeownership and racial disparities in homeownership. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, this paper considers the potential of a broad variety of criminal justice system interactions to shape homeownership experiences among young adults. Using a variety of models to address concerns of unobserved confounding, I investigate how arrest, criminal charges, conviction, and incarceration relate to (1) probability of homeownership, (2) age of entry into first homeownership, and (3) homeownership duration. Results indicate that, like incarceration, these lower level forms of criminal justice contact are independently associated with lower levels of homeownership, delayed entry into homeownership, and shorter duration of homeownership among respondents who succeed in becoming homeowners. Given the importance of homeownership for individual wealth accumulation and racial wealth gaps, as well as sizeable racial disparities in criminal justice contact in the U.S., these findings illuminate a potentially important pathway through which racial disparities in socioeconomic wellbeing are reinforced.

This paper was originally presented at a national Symposium on Housing Tenure and Financial Security, hosted by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies and Fannie Mae in March 2019. A decade after the start of the foreclosure crisis, the symposium examined the state of homeownership in America, focusing on the evolving relationship between tenure choice, financial security, and residential stability.