Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Welfare


Mimi Abramovitz

Subject Categories

Social Work


Gender, Housing, Mortgage Foreclosure, Social Reproduction, Subprime


Advisor: Professor Mimi Abramovitz

This research captures the experiences of 31 single female homeowners with risky lending markets and mortgage foreclosure in the city of Philadelphia. In-depth, semi-structured interviewing was employed to build knowledge about single women's experiences with seeking a loan, buying a home, entering default and attempting to stall foreclosure. Thematic analysis of the data demonstrated that risky lending and foreclosure did not mark the onset of financial instability among study participants. Instead, it functioned as a tipping point for single women unable to access upward mobility and asset accrual throughout the lifespan. Women's status as the strongest members of a financially fragile network interacted with holes in the social safety net, lack of protective legislation and lending policies that placed them at risk of foreclosure. The research also indicates that the privatization of social reproduction acted as an amplifier and conduit of market risk that extends the responsibility for unpaid care work well into older adulthood. As a result, social reproduction revisited the homeowners either exacerbating or contributing to foreclosure and the early onset of disease and disability before women were eligible for Medicare and Social Security. When homeowners experienced mortgage strain they all negotiated with their lenders, increased hours at work, employed strict household budgeting and sought aid from social services to offset mortgage costs. Black homeowners (n=15) immediately searched for assistance, while White homeowners (n=15) were comparatively slower to contact housing counselors and service agencies. Despite these variations, when and how a homeowner searched for aid did not meaningfully alter the onset of default. To date, foreclosure policy and practice interventions have been predicated on an assumption that the onset of foreclosure is an isolated market event. In contrast, the women's lived experiences within risky markets and their personal encounters with the threat of default are tied to a larger context shaped by the prevailing gender division of labor, the erosion of assets and health within the context of a poorly resourced network, the failing safety net and the resulting shift of market risk onto female homeowners.

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