NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Does High Home-Ownership Impair the Labor Market?

David G. Blanchflower, Andrew J. Oswald

NBER Working Paper No. 19079
Issued in May 2013
NBER Program(s):   LS   ME

We explore the hypothesis that high home-ownership damages the labor market. Our results are relevant to, and may be worrying for, a range of policy-makers and researchers. We find that rises in the home- ownership rate in a U.S. state are a precursor to eventual sharp rises in unemployment in that state. The elasticity exceeds unity: a doubling of the rate of home-ownership in a U.S. state is followed in the long-run by more than a doubling of the later unemployment rate. What mechanism might explain this? We show that rises in home-ownership lead to three problems: (i) lower levels of labor mobility, (ii) greater commuting times, and (iii) fewer new businesses. Our argument is not that owners themselves are disproportionately unemployed. The evidence suggests, instead, that the housing market can produce negative ‘externalities’ upon the labor market. The time lags are long. That gradualness may explain why these important patterns are so little-known.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19079

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