An Evaluation of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's Study of Racial Discrimination in Mortgage Lending
by Dennis Glennon and Mitchell Stengel
OCC Working Paper 94-2, April 1994.
In 1992, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (Boston Fed) released a now well-known study of mortgage lending practices in the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Using an econometric model to examine extensive mortgage loan data collected from 131 financial institutions in the Boston MSA, the authors of the Boston Fed study tried and failed to find explanations other than racial discrimination for the significant disparities observed in the rejection rates for white and minority loan applicants.
The Boston Fed study attracted considerable attention from Congress, the banking industry, the civil rights community, bank regulators, and the news media. But three follow-up studies have raised a variety of problems with the Boston Fed study relating to data and methodology. In this paper, we discuss and evaluate the problems cited by critics of the Boston Fed study. We focus our attention on three broad areas of concern: model specification; data errors; and differences in characteristics of the groups being compared. Our principal findings can be summarized as follows:
We conclude with a qualified confirmation of the results of the Boston Fed study. However, we believe there are still several important specification issues that cannot be investigated, and several data problems that cannot be corrected, with the data provided by the Boston Fed. Additional research at both the MSA and the individual bank levels is warranted.
As with all OCC Working Papers, the opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency or the Department of the Treasury.
Any whole or partial reproduction of material in this paper should include the following citation: Glennon, Dennis and Mitchell Stengel, "An Evaluation of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston's Study of Racial Discrimination in Mortgage Lending," Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, E&PA Working Paper 94-2, April 1994.