NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

The Twentieth-Century Increase in U.S. Home Ownership: Facts and Hypotheses

Daniel K. Fetter

Chapter in NBER book Housing and Mortgage Markets in Historical Perspective (2014), Eugene N. White, Kenneth Snowden, and Price Fishback, editors (p. 329 - 350)
Conference held September 23-24, 2011
Published in July 2014 by University of Chicago Press
© 2014 by the National Bureau of Economic Research

Home ownership rose dramatically in the United States during the mid-20th century. This chapter discusses what is known about the causes of this increase and highlights areas needing more research. Past work has investigated factors such as rising real incomes, individuals leaving home at younger ages, favorable tax treatment for those who owned their own houses, and the rise of the modern mortgage finance system. No single explanation fully accounts for the rise in homeownership on its own, but several of these explanations appear to be quantitatively important, and the chapter discusses ways in which they are interrelated. Also discussed are a number of other contributing factors, such as the expansion of suburban neighborhoods associated with the construction of highways and the exodus of white families from city centers.

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This paper was revised on July 3, 2013

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