Theses Doctoral

Racial and Spatial Disparities in Fintech Mortgage Lending in the United States

Haupert, Tyler

Despite being governed by several laws aimed at preventing racial inequality in access to housing and credit resources, the mortgage lending market remains a contributor to racial and place-based disparities in homeownership rates, wealth, and access to high-quality community resources. Scholarship has identified persistent disparities in mortgage loan approval rates and subprime lending between white borrowers and those from other racial and ethnic groups, and between white neighborhoods and neighborhoods with high levels of non-white residents. Against this backdrop, the mortgage lending industry is undergoing rapid, technology-driven changes in risk assessment and application processing. Traditional borrower risk-assessment methods including face-to-face discussions between lenders and applicants and the prominent use of FICO credit scores have been replaced or supplemented by automated decision-making tools at a new generation of institutions known as fintech lenders.

Little is known about the relationship between lenders using these new tools and the racial and spatial disparities that have long defined the wider mortgage market. Given the well-documented history of discrimination in lending along with findings of technology-driven racial inequality in other economic sectors, fintech lending’s potential for racial discrimination warrants increased scrutiny. This dissertation compares the lending outcomes of traditional and fintech mortgage lenders in the United States depending on applicant and neighborhood racial characteristics. Using data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, an original dataset classifying lenders as fintech or traditional, and an array of complimentary administrative data sources, it provides an assessment of the salience of race and place in the rates at which mortgage loans from each lender type are approved and assigned subprime terms. Results from a series of regression-based quantitative analyses suggest fintech mortgage lenders, like traditional mortgage lenders, approve and deny loans and distribute subprime credit at disparate rates to white borrowers and neighborhoods relative to nonwhite borrowers and neighborhoods. Findings suggest that policymakers and regulators must increase their oversight of fintech lenders, ensuring that further advances in lending technology do not concretize longstanding racial and spatial disparities.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Freeman, Lance M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 3, 2021