Journal Article

1960s Interstate Highways and Homeowner Wealth Distribution


Abstract: This article studies house-level real estate wealth distribution changes nearby a major interstate highway, comparing values before the announcement of the highway's construction (1940) with those during and shortly after the construction period (1961-74). We also develop Lorenz curves to examine the distribution of housing wealth among various demographic groups of homeowners. First, we find that properties at least a half-mile away from I-84 experienced statistically significant appreciation (on average). Houses further away, in 0.25 mile increments up to 1.25 miles, appreciated less. Our Lorenz curves exhibit a small inequitable distribution of wealth gains among all homeowners experiencing appreciation. But there was a large inequitable distribution of wealth losses among homeowners whose houses depreciated in value during and after construction compared with 1940 (pre-announcement). The Lorenz curves imply that, for the 10th percentile of homes with wealth increases, the majority-White-population Census tracts experienced over 25 percent higher house price appreciation than the majority-Black-population Census tracts. Finally, we observe that approximately 0.5 percent of the houses in our 1940 Census sample of around 2,500 homes had a Black homeowner.

Keywords: interstate highways; homeowners; wealth distribution;

JEL Classification: R3; R4;

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Part of Series: Review

Publication Date: 2022

Pages: 20 pages

Note: Forthcoming 2022