A battle over social media about how well the current housing finance system treats African-Americans and other minorities has spurred a critical discussion about racial disparities in the mortgage market.

The protracted fight erupted on Twitter last week and lasted for several days, centering on a statistic quoted by David Stevens, president and chief executive of the Mortgage Bankers Association, at an industry conference. Joshua Rosner, a prominent analyst at Graham Fisher & Co., challenged the validity of the data point, which suggested more than half of African American applicants are denied a conventional mortgage.

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