Yesterday, ProPublica published a groundbreaking story about the disparate impact that debt collection practices have on urban black communities. Entitled, “The Color of Debt: How Collection Suits Squeeze Black Neighborhoods,” the piece follows an investigation of debt collection lawsuits in three metropolitan areas—St. Louis, Chicago and Newark—finding that, between 2008 and 2012, the rate of court judgments in these cases was twice as high in predominately black neighborhoods as in predominately white ones. In Jennings, Missouri, for example, a suburb of St. Louis that is almost 90 percent black, nearly one-third of the residents had been sued to collect a debt—including the mayor and five of the eight sitting city council members.
Why was the disparity so great? The article concludes that “generations of discrimination have left black families with grossly fewer resources to draw on when they come under financial pressure.” Read more →