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Cassi Pittman

Stop ‘Blaming the Man’: Perceptions of Inequality and Opportunities for Success in the Obama Era among Middle-Class African Americans
Jessica S. Welburn & Cassi L. Pittman
Ethnic and Racial Studies. 35(3): 523-540. 2012


This paper builds upon work that has shown that African Americans exhibit a dual consciousness when explaining persistent inequality. We draw upon 45 in-depth interviews with middle-class African Americans following the 2008 election to explore how they explain persistent disadvantage for African Americans, the de-stigmatization strategies they employ, and the impact they believe the election of Barack Obama will have on opportunities for African Americans. Consistent with dual consciousness theory, we find that respondents explain persistent disadvantage for African Americans by citing structural and motivational factors. We also extend previous work to show that for the majority of respondents the use of individualistic de-stigmatization strategies reinforces their dual consciousness. These respondents are optimistic about Obama’s election because it supports their belief that African Americans should assume responsibility for improving their circumstances. A minority of respondents express more concern about the persistence of racial inequality, and consequentially are less optimistic about changes that Obama’s election may bring about.

The Use of Social Capital in Borrower Decision‐Making
Cassi L. Pittman
Cambridge, MA: Joint Center For Housing Studies of Harvard University. [Internet] 2008


By looking beyond the financial characteristics of borrowers, this research brings to light the social factors that influence a borrower’s choice of a lender and mortgage product. Previous research has indicated that distinct channels exist that funnel borrowers into lower or higher cost loan products (Apgar, Bendimerad, and Essene 2007). But little is known as to how borrowers seek out or are directed to such channels. A particular concern that this paper hopes to address is why black borrowers disproportionately have higher priced products. Some research indicates that even when credit worthiness is controlled for, blacks are overrepresented in the subprime sector and in higher-cost products (Bocian, Ernst, and Li 2006). Through in-depth interviews with 32 borrowers, this research (1) highlights how borrowers seek mortgage credit and evaluate their mortgage options, and (2) demonstrates how borrowers make use of their social networks (friends and family) when making their decisions. The preliminary findings indicate that borrowers’ preferences and subsequent demands for mortgage products were shaped by the informal and formal advice they received. Those borrowers who consulted the most diverse sources of information had loans with lower interest rates. Those borrowers who received advice only from family and friends did not fare as well as those who received help from credit counselors. Thus, arguably, their loan outcomes varied not just based on if they consulted others, but especially whom they consulted. When given the right advice, potential homebuyers make better decisions in choosing both a lender and a loan.

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