Housing and Social Stratification in America

11.202/11.203 or equivalent introductory economics

Housing is a key site of social stratification. Race, class, gender, sexuality: all are enacted through our homes. Our homes provide access to our communities, and public goods like primary education are allocated less to families than to the occupants of houses. Housing is the key to wealth for the middle classes. Some families are able to use their homes to fund health care and elder care, unemployment and life insurance, or even vacations. Other families and individuals are unhoused. Many families are unable to find housing in their preferred city or neighborhood. In this course, we will investigate how policy, markets, and private actions are used to stratify society, with a particular application to race in America. We will develop structural frameworks to better understand the processes of stratification and identify sites of intervention. We will identify the ways federal and local policy shape housing markets to reflect, reinforce, and (very occasionally) combat social inequities. We will frame our work in terms of overlapping housing crises: gentrification, displacements, white flight, shortage, homelessness, and car-dependence. We will ground our work in historical and social context. We will write, and rewrite—extensively. And we will center in our writing and conversation the ways in which planning can further the goal of building the just city.