“When You’re in a Crisis Like That, You Don’t Want People to Know”: Mortgage Strain, Stigma and Mental Health

Danya Keene, Yale University
Sarah K. Cowan, New York University (NYU)
Amy Baker, University of Wyoming

Mortgage strain can have severe consequences for mental health, but the specific mechanisms underlying this relationship have yet to be revealed. Stigma represents one unexplored pathway. We analyze experiences of stigmatization, concealment and isolation among African-American homeowners who were experiencing mortgage strain using data from 28 in-depth interviews. Our data suggest that mortgage strain can be a concealable stigma. Participants expressed shame about their mortgage situation which threatened their status as homeowners. Additionally, some anticipated that others would view them as less worthy given their mortgage trouble. In an effort to avoid stigmatization, many concealed their mortgage trouble which often led to experiences of isolation. This stigmatization, concealment and isolation seemed to contribute to participants’ emotional distress. These findings suggest that stigma may be one pathway that connects mortgage strain to poor mental health, particularly among upwardly mobile African Americans who have overcome significant structural barriers to homeownership.

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 Presented in Session P5. Adult Health and Mortality