A student of social justice, urban environmental policy, Jermaine Toney is an “accidental economist”

June 1, 2021

Describing himself as an “accidental economist,” Jermaine Toney, Ph.D., began his academic career as a student of social justice movements and urban environmental policy as an undergraduate at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota. In his off-campus work, he met some economists with a focus on community engagement and socioeconomic inclusion. This led to his interest in the “dismal science” of economics at The New School for Social Research.

His dissertation consisted of three papers concerning structural aspects of household finance, including mortgage loan decisions made by credit facilities and intergenerational links in investment decisions. One paper looked at how disproportionate exposure to poverty or economic insecurity in the family tree negatively affects the wealth gap. Recently, this paper was featured in The Atlantic. Another paper explored how the strong intergenerational links in wealth components help to weaken economic mobility in the US. In his final paper, Dr. Toney examined the home mortgage loan denial rates between blacks and whites in the Twin Cities region (Minneapolis and St. Paul), showing that intergroup differences in socioeconomic status and credit risk did not alone explain the stark gap. A substantial portion of the gap indicated that credit facilities were applying differential treatment in their loan denial decisions. His third paper was recently profiled in U.S. News and World Report as context for the George Floyd protests in Minnesota.

Dr. Toney broadened his research portfolio through a post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University’s Institute for Behavioral and Household Finance. He wanted to augment his training with a focus on health economics, which he saw as a complement to his work on wealth disparities. He is currently looking at how extended family mental health issues affect investment decisions, which in turn affect wealth building. If one is the financial anchor for a family member’s mental health issue or treatment, it can be difficult to save and invest. 

In his next area of exploration, Dr. Toney will look at the long-term effects of redlining and covenants on financial wealth. Meanwhile, he is looking forward to the Amazon series “THEM” which examines covenants in real estate in California. In Minnesota, racial covenants appear in the early part of the twentieth century and are left intact by the federal government through the designation of neighborhoods as a risk for lending or underwriting. He plans to investigate how historic red-lining continues to influence contemporary home lending for both blacks and whites. 

Dr. Toney earned his high school diploma as an International Baccalaureate student, a rigorous program in which he participated from middle through high school. This internationally recognized curriculum sparked a serious interest in history and travel often off the beaten path. Dr. Toney has traveled to more than 20 countries including Indonesia, Madagascar, Morocco, Ethiopia, Argentina, and Russia. When he’s not conducting research or traveling, Dr. Toney enjoys going to the movies and cooking.

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