Home Ownership

As represented in Figure 9-4, the percentage of adult Americans in particular age groups who own their own homes increases steadily from 10% in the 15- to 24-year-old age range to approximately 75% in the 75- to 84-year-old age group. The greatest rise in the number of householders occurs during the late forties to early fifties, when most American are well-established in their careers and families and are fairly secure financially.

A few decades ago, most young adults simply could not afford to move into their own homes. A large percentage of college students lived at home (30% still do), and single men and women who left home lived in rental quarters. However, the trend toward postponing marriage or deciding to remain single led many young adults to take the plunge into home purchasing. This decision was facilitated by adjustable-rate mortgages and balloon financing plans that made it possible to become a householder for a relatively low initial monthly payment. The payments increased over time, but by then, it was argued and expected, the young householder would be better able to afford them. Of course, it was usually necessary to make a sizable down payment as well, but relatives or commercial sources were willing to help out with that.

During the 1980s, the escalation of home costs and the shrinkage of the real-dollar incomes of adults in their late twenties and early thirties made it more and more difficult for them to establish independent households and duplicate the standard of living attained by their parents. Consequently, many young adults delayed their departure from the family stronghold or found themselves returning when they could no longer make financial ends meet.

Age (Years)

15-24 25-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65-74

75-84

% of Total Population % Householders in Age Group

Figure 9-4 Percentage of total population and householders by age group. (Prepared from published data in Saluter, 1996.)

The sluggish housing market of the early 1990s caused many would-be homeowners to consider their purchases more carefully, but it did not stop them. People continued to buy even bigger and better homes. The acceleration of home ownership during middle adulthood (see Figure 9-4) was affected by the tendency to "trade up" to larger, more comfortable, and more convenient housing by mobile executives, professionals, and other traveling workers. Homeowners aged 55 or over, who had seen the value of their homes appreciate considerably, could sell them, with exemption from capital gains tax on the sale for up to $125,000.

Middle-aged adults, who want to live in places where they can rear their children and achieve greater occupational success and stability, are particularly interested in living accommodations that provide security, beauty, and a feeling of community. As they grow even older, convenience, ease of usage, safety, and security become even more important than they were in earlier years.

Home ownership varies not only with chronological age, but also with gender, ethnicity, place of residence, and other demographic variables. A greater percentage of whites than blacks, of blacks than Hispanics, and of males than females are home owners. This sex difference in home ownership

15-24 25-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65-74

75-84

% of Total Population % Householders in Age Group

Figure 9-4 Percentage of total population and householders by age group. (Prepared from published data in Saluter, 1996.)

is larger for whites than for any other ethnic group, but it is the reverse for blacks (Saluter, 1996). The rate of home ownership is lower inside than outside metropolitan areas, and higher in the suburbs than the central cities. It also varies with geographical region and state, being highest in Delaware and lowest in Hawaii (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994).

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