Bo’s Clips: Unequal Recovery

The Federal Reserve has released a new report that asserts the nation has yet to recover from the recession. While those in the top income bracket have rebounded, the average citizen has yet to regain the buying power to spike the general economy. The collapse of the housing industry still bares the blunt of the blame for the weak economy.

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Americans have rebuilt less than half of wealth lost to the recession, study says

By Ylan Q. Mui        Washington Post        May 30, 2013

American households have rebuilt less than half of the wealth lost during the recession, leaving them without the spending power to fuel a robust economic recovery, according to a new analysis from the Federal Reserve.

From the peak of the boom to the bottom of the bust, households watched a total of $16 trillion in wealth disappear amid sinking stock prices and the rubble of the real estate market. Since then, Americans have only been able to recapture 45 percent of that amount on average, after adjusting for inflation and population growth, according to the report from the St. Louis Fed released Thursday.

In addition, the report showed most of the improvement was due to gains in the stock market, which primarily benefit wealthy families. That means the recovery for other households has been even weaker.

“A conclusion that the financial damage of the crisis and recession largely has been repaired is not justified,” the report stated.

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Home prices up 10 percent: How strong is this year’s US housing market?

Sales volume is rising, and the inventory of homes in foreclosure is down almost 25 percent from a year ago. Here’s some more context to put the recent trends in home prices in perspective.

By Mark Trumbull       Christian Science Monitor       May 29, 2013

News of the first double-digit annual home price gain since 2006 raises a question: Just how blazing hot is the housing market?

Clearly a recovery has gathered some steam.

Home prices have been rising across all 20 US cities that are tracked by Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller indexes, and the widely watched Case-Shiller nationwide index shows home prices up 10.2 percent over the past four quarters.

That’s the first year-over-year rise of 10 percent or more since early 2006, according to quarterly Case-Shiller data released Tuesday.

Sales volume is also rising, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports. And according to Wednesday numbers from the firm CoreLogic, the inventory of homes in foreclosure is down 24 percent from a year ago.

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Mortgage rates hit highest levels in a year

By Mary Ellen Podmolik      Chicago Tribune      May 30, 2013

It’s getting more expensive to finance a home purchase or refinance an existing mortgage.

The average interest rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage climbed to 3.81 percent this week, the highest it’s been in a year and up nearly half a percentage point since early May, Freddie Mac said Thursday.

The current rate, which does not include additional fees applied by lenders to mitigate their credit risk, compares with 3.59 percent last week and 3.75 percent a year ago.

The average rate on a 15-year, fixed rate mortgage was 2.98 percent, compared with 2.77 percent last week and 2.97 percent a year ago.

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The Death and Life of Chicago

By Ben Austen      New York Times      June 2, 2013

On a 100-degree day last summer, on Chicago’s southernmost edge, Willie Fleming, who goes by J. R. (“It stands for Just Righteousness”), crept up to an abandoned ranch house shrouded in overgrown weeds. The overwhelmingly poor and black neighborhood sits beside a 150-acre, 1,500-unit public-housing complex and is about as far — literally and figuratively — from the Loop as you can get and still be in Chicago. Nearly a quarter of the homes in the area had been empty for at least two years. Usually when J. R. scouts for properties to break into and take over, he looks for ones with unmown grass, a sign of vacancy and disregard. But this was excessive. “I don’t come back here without my air gun,” he said, backing away. A young couple next door had set up lawn chairs on the sidewalk. An infant in only a diaper tottered around them. “That’s the dead-dog cemetery,” the man announced, motioning to the ranch house.

J. R. told the couple about the Anti-Eviction Campaign, the group he founded in 2009 with Toussaint Losier, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Chicago and a fellow housing activist. At 40, J. R. possesses the softening bulk of a former running back — he was all-state as a high-school sophomore. A skunklike streak of white runs up the center of his ringleted black dreadlocks. In the past year, he said, the Anti-Eviction Campaign freed up 20 abandoned properties, fixing up the buildings and moving “home-less people into the people-less homes.”

As hard as the foreclosure crisis hit Chicago, its force has been felt with an unevenness that can seem fiendishly unjust.

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New Survey Takes A Snapshot Of The View From Black America

By Gene Demby       NPR       June 4, 2013

You might think that African-Americans might be more pessimistic about their lives. The housing crisis decimated pockets of black wealth. The black unemployment rate has been nearly double the national average for several years.

But according to findings from our survey of more than 1,000 African-Americans, you’d be wrong.

A new poll released Tuesday by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that the overwhelming majority of black people (86 percent) said they were satisfied with their lives. Nearly 60 percent said they would eventually achieve the American dream of financial security and home ownership. A little more than half of those polled (53 percent) said they felt their lives had gotten better in recent years.

The survey sampled about 1,081 people, and the geographic breakdown — with a majority of respondents in the South or in urban areas — roughly matched the demographics of African-Americans in the country more broadly. It asked respondents for their opinions on a wide range of issues: finances, personal health, dating lives, assessments of their communities and neighborhoods, and much more.

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