Women far less likely to be approved for mortgage in Chicago area (Chicago Tribune)

By Gregory Karp

Women in the Chicago area are generally less likely to receive mortgages than men, a phenomenon that could hinder women's ability to build wealth and establish financial security, according to a report to be released Wednesday by the Woodstock Institute.

The study, which controlled for applicants' income and the size of the loan sought, found that female applicants in the six-county Chicago area were 14.5 percent less likely to receive a home purchase loan than men. A woman whose name headed a joint application was 28.3 percent less likely than a man to receive a loan.

Even so, the report and its main researcher, Spencer Cowan, stopped short of claiming banks were systematically discriminating against women. The publicly available federal data — and the lack of key data on factors such as credit scores that determine loan applicants' outcomes — raises questions that don't seem to have obvious answers, said Cowan, a vice president at the Chicago-based nonprofit research and public policy organization.

"All we're saying is, this is what the data show: Female applicants are less likely to get loans originated than male applicants," Cowan said.

"We don't have basic underwriting criteria," Cowan added. "We don't have the value of the property or any credit score range or debt-to-income ratio. We can't look at it and say cause and effect. Maybe (the report) will get the regulators' attention, maybe they will get access to better data."

Last summer, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unveiled a proposal that would require financial institutions to report as many as 37 new pieces of data on potential borrowers and their loan application outcomes as part of the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. Public comments on the bureau's proposal were taken until late October.

A final rule is expected to be announced late this summer, Sam Gilford, a bureau spokesman, said Tuesday.

Read More