AbstractFor decades, it was taken as a given that an increased homeownership rate was a desirable goal. But after the financial crises and Great Recession, in which roughly eight million homes were foreclosed on and about $7 trillion in home equity was erased, economists and policymakers are re-evaluating the role of homeownership in the American Dream. Many question whether the American Dream should really include homeownership or instead focus more on other aspects of upward mobility, and most acknowledge that homeownership is not for everyone. We take a detailed look at US homeownership from three different perspectives: 1) an international perspective, comparing US homeownership rates with those of other nations; 2) a demographic perspective, examining the correlation between changes in the US homeownership rate between 1985 and 2015 and factors like age, race/ethnicity, education, family status, and income; 3) and, a financial benefits perspective, using national data since 2002 to calculate the internal rate of return to homeownership compared to alternative investments. Our overall conclusion: homeownership is a valuable institution. While two decades of policies in the 1990s and early 2000s may have put too much faith in the benefits of homeownership, the pendulum seems to have swung too far the other way, and many now may have too little faith in homeownership as part of the American Dream.
Journal of Economic Perspectives – American Economic Association
Published: Feb 1, 2018
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