Losing Ground: Racial Disparities in Medical Debt and Home Foreclosure in the Deep South

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Medical debt is a persistent problem in the United States. This study examined the role of medical debt in relation to home foreclosure in a Deep South county with high rates of poverty, health disparities, and a racial gap in homeownership. Statistical analysis and geographic information systems mapping of municipal court records for 890 foreclosees indicated disproportionately high rates of medical debt among African Americans who lived in racially distinct neighborhoods. Both nonmedical and medical debt judgments were more numerous among African Americans than among whites; foreclosees in both groups had a higher medical debt burden compared with nonforeclosees. These results help to explain medical debt as a driver of foreclosure and racial disparities in homeownership.

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