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Racial Wealth Divide Rises in Housing Market—Especially During COVID-19

Source: Brookings Institute

The U.S. racial wealth gap in housing is larger today than it was in 1934, with COVID-19 exacerbating long-existing household financial insecurity. Even when they have similar incomes, Black and Latino families are less likely to purchase a house than white families, according to the Brookings Institution. At the beginning of 2020, 44% of Black families owned their house, compared to 73.7% of white families. 

Racial discrimination in the housing market was outlawed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, but it continues to prevent people and families of color from becoming homeowners. Brookings Institute states that current homeownership subsidies are the main driver for this racial divide — particularly in mortgage lending. As of 2019, “the median white family has eight times the wealth of the median Black family.” 

Homeownership remains one of the most common ways families can build their wealth in the U.S., especially for middle-class families. To eliminate racial discrimination in the housing market, the government can support first-time homebuyers by enforcing federal tax policies that are more balanced. The new U.S. administration plans to tackle affordable housing and anti-discrimination policies with a $640 billion, 10-year plan.

South Asia Sees a Shrinking Middle Class and Surge in Poverty

Source: Pew Research Center

More people moved into poverty in South Asia in 2020 compared to other regions globally, reversing years of progress in the region. South Asia also saw the biggest decline in its middle class, which decreased by 32 million people, while East Asia and the Pacific lost 19 million, according to Pew Research Center. 

Globally, there were 54 million fewer people in the middle class in 2020 than the pre-pandemic forecasted number. The global population living in poverty rose to an estimated 803 million — compared to the 672 million that was initially expected pre-pandemic. “The steep rise in global poverty is driven by the fact that many who were in the low-income tier prior to the pandemic lived on the margin of poverty,” according to Pew. 

The path to recovery remains unclear as regions start to revive their economies — although vaccine distribution has led to a rise in consumer confidence. The pace and strength of the recovery will depend on access to medical supplies, governmental support and regional economic and societal status prior to COVID-19.

Insurance for M&A Deals Surged in 2020

Source: Marsh

The communications, media and technology sectors held the highest number of insurance policies to protect M&A deals in 2020 according to new data from Marsh McLennan. Mergers and acquisitions in the technology sector held the most deal volume in the United States at $346.5 billion, a result of an increase in e-commerce, remote working and digital transformation in different sectors.

M&A activity in the U.S. was down 21% by value and 16% by deal count in 2020 compared to 2019. Despite this sudden halt in activity during the second quarter, transactional risk insurance in the U.S. and Canada reached record highs in the fourth quarter — ending in a total of $545 billion in deal value. Insurers shifted their focus to COVID-related impacts on companies.

The transactional risk insurance market will face multiple challenges in 2021, such as a continued increase in claims frequency and severity, rising costs and a focus by insurers on claims related to COVID-19. 

Why US Supercities Are Losing Appeal

Source: Milken Institute, 2021

San Francisco, California, lost its place as the best-performing city in the United States, dropping 23 places in rank. It was replaced by Provo, Utah — a relatively new innovation center with a lower cost of living than California’s “supercities.” Intermountain western and southern cities outperformed those originally popular coastal cities, according to Milken Institute

The annual index tracks cities’ regional economies based on job creation, wage growth and high-tech innovation. For the first time, the 2021 criteria also considered broadband access and housing affordability to hold cities accountable to providing a more inclusive economy. 

Shifts to remote work during COVID-19 resulted in U.S. residents relocating away from pricier cities to ones that are more affordable. An Oliver Wyman Forum survey found that 2% of respondents have permanently or temporarily relocated because of COVID-19, while another 14% are planning to relocate or leaning toward doing so. These less-populated cities may be better positioned to prosper after the pandemic, with a higher chance of attracting companies, capital and citizens.

Why the Number of US Homeowners Grew During COVID-19

Source: Pew Research Center

The number of homeowners in the United States grew by 2 million over the last year, reflecting a 2.6% increase. This is the seventh-largest percentage increase in homeowners since 1965, according to Pew Research Center. By the fourth quarter of 2020, there were around 83 million owner-occupied homes in the U.S.

This growth in homeownership, Pew Research Center states, resulted from economic growth and an increasing number of households over time. Although the unemployment rate during COVID-19 skyrocketed, job losses fell heavily on young adults and low-income workers, who are less likely to be potential homebuyers. In 2020, interest rates were at record lows, there was a slowdown in foreclosures and household incomes were at a high before the pandemic — all factors made it easier to enter the housing market. Experts predict that the housing market will remain strong in 2021, driven by low mortgage rates, the vaccine distribution and growing consumer confidence

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