By words and deeds: Racial steering by real estate agents in the U.S. in 2000

George Galster, Erin Godfrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although prohibited by the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968, studies in the 1980s found that racial steering by real estate agents in the U.S. was still occurring. That legislation was strengthened in 1988, but throughout the 1990s, no study examined whether these tougher strictures helped eliminate steering. In 2000, HUD and the Urban Institute conducted the national Housing Discrimination Study in 20 U.S. metropolitan areas to replicate and extend that earlier work. In this article, we report the results of this latest study, which examined three types of steering and three steering mechanisms, all at three geographic scales. The results indicate that steering of all types is occurring when Black and White homebuyers are involved. In at least 12 to 15% of the cases, agents provided gratuitous commentary that gave more information to White homebuyers and encouraged them to choose homes in areas with more White and fewer poor households. Steering is less prevalent when Hispanic and White buyers are involved. We also found no evidence that steering declined over the last decade, despite the toughening of the federal legislation in 1988. We conclude by discussing the implications for interracial wealth differentials and new fair housing enforcement initiatives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-268
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


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