Summary of How Homeownership Became the Engine of American Inequality

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Social Security. Medicaid. When it comes to federal aid, you’re most likely to think of programs that aid the poorest Americans. However, the US government channels billions of dollars in invisible aid to wealthy homeowners. As President Donald Trump cuts housing programs and poor renters struggle, it’s important to consider how the current system exacerbates inequality. Find insight and empathy in a thought-provoking exploration with Pulitzer Prize–winning author and sociologist Matthew Desmond. getAbstract recommends his analysis to curious policymakers and activists.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Why US housing assistance leaves poor renters to fend for themselves,
  • How the mortgage-interest deduction has grown to become a “politically untouchable” program that favors rich homeowners, and
  • Why the status quo needs to change –and why it hasn’t.

About the Author

Author and sociologist Matthew Desmond wrote the Pulitzer Prize–winning book, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.



While the average American homeowner has a net worth of $195,400 – 36 times more than the average renter – US housing policy favors rich homeowners and ignores poor renters. One in four households that qualify receives rental assistance, and more than half of poor renters spend more than half their incomes on housing. In contrast, the federal government invested almost $134 billion in homeowner subsidies in 2015, more than the “budgets of the Departments of Education, Justice and Energy combined.” Like Social Security and Medicare, the mortgage-interest deduction (MID) has grown into a ”politically untouchable” entitlement program. Upper-middle-class people, who tend to vote and give to political campaigns, expect the deduction. The MID also props up home values. Experts expect the benefit’s cost to swell to more than $96 billion by 2019. 

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