The 10% Fall: Home Ownership Hits Its Lowest Level in a Decade

More

The percentage of Americans who own their home has hit its lowest point in more than a decade, according to a new survey from Gallup. The pollster reports that the homeownership rate fell from 68 percent in 2011 to 62 percent in 2012. 

Is this something we should all be concerned about? Not particularly. 

Gallup_Home_Ownership.gif

First off, we should probably take Gallup's specific results with a grain of salt. Did the home-ownership rate really rise three percentage points between 2010 and 2011, just to drop by six one year later? Count me as dubious. The poll also has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent which, given that we're talking about a 5 point shift over the decade, is quite large.  

Given the weak economy and persisting foreclosure crisis, though, it's probably safe to assume Gallup is basically right about the trend. That doesn't mean we should all bemoan the death of the homeownership ideal. First, consider where we're beginning our comparison. In 2001, we were coming off the tail end of the tech bubble, in many respects a high-water mark for America's economy. What followed were several years of low interest rates and disastrously loose lending standards that fueled an unsustainable housing bubble. We're looking at a period in time where potential home buyers went from being flush to feeling like they were flush to realizing they, in fact, were not flush. It's not a great frame of reference.   

There's also an upside to a renter economy: Workers become more mobile. When jobs are scarce, people often need to move to find employment. Owning a home makes that harder. So a drop in the ownership rate may be good for the labor market.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

51 years ago, President John F. Kennedy made a very angry phone call.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Business

Just In