The Twentieth-Century Increase in U.S. Home Ownership: Facts and Hypotheses
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.
For helpful comments I am especially grateful to Price Fishback, Claudia Goldin, Ken Snowden, Eugene White, and Heidi Williams. I gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School, the Real Estate Academic Initiative at Harvard University, and the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. All errors are my own.