The Woodstock Institute has studied about 257,000 mortgage and refinancing applications from a six county area around Chicago from 2010 and intend to study four additional years worth of applications, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.
However, the organization said it had already found that applications involving a wide variety of income levels and lending amounts that have a woman listed as the primary borrower and a man listed as co-borrower were 24 percent less likely to have a loan approved compared to applications that listed the man first.
Furthermore, applications with an African-American woman listed first fared even worse.
With an African-American woman listed first on a refinancing application, the loans were 44 percent less likely to be approved compared to applications with an African-American man listed first.
On initial mortgage loans, applications with African-American women listed first were 34 less likely to meet with approval, the study found.
"It's unlikely that there isn't some element of discrimination," said Spencer Cowan, vice president of research at Woodstock.
"It may be totally unconscious," Cowan said.
There may be other variables at play. For example, applications with women listed first could be more likely to include men with poor credit scores, said attorney Diane Thompson at the National Consumer Law Center.
Despite that possibility, "There are lots of different things that could be contributing to it, but it suggests to me that it's part of the long-established tradition of discrimination against women," Thompson said.