No other recent economic crisis better illustrates the saying "when America catches a cold, African Americans get pneumonia" than the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. African Americans, along with other minorities and low-income populations, have been the targets of the sub-prime mortgage system. Blacks received a disproportionate share of these loans, leading to a "stripping" of their hard-won home-equity gains of the recent past and the near future. To fully understand how this has happened, we need to place this in the context of the continuing racial-wealth gap, the importance of home equity in the wealth portfolios of African Americans, and its intersection with the new financial markets of which sub-prime is but one manifestation.
Social mobility, economic security, and self-reliance are at the heart of the American ideal. These widely shared goals can be the foundation for a new political consensus built around the cultivation of financial and human assets. At least two sources animate this new policy context.