A Home of One's Own: Aging and Homeownership in the United States in the late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries

Michael R. Haines, Allen C. Goodman

NBER Historical Working Paper No. 21
Issued in January 1991
NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy

One of the principal types of wealth accumulation in the United States has been real property, especially in the form of homes as the society became more urban and less agricultural. At present, almost two-thirds of all American households reside in owner-occupied structures. The present paper explores this phenomenon for the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from the standpoint of property accumulation over the life course. Age patterns of homeownership for urban and rural non-farm households are the central concern. Drawing on micro samples of the 1865 New York State census and the 1900 united States census, micro data on the 6,809 worker families residing in the united States in the 1889/90 U.S. Commissioner of Labor Survey, and published data from the 1890 and 1930 united States censuses, the incidence of homeownership by age of household head is described. The level of the ownership curve (by age) has risen over time, and its shape has changed. Differences by region and rural-urban residence are shown to have existed. Differentials between native and foreign-born whites narrowed from the late nineteenth century to circa 1930, but those by race (black versus white) persisted.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/h0021

Published: Aging in the Past: Demography, Society, and Old Age, David I. Kertzer and Peter Loslett, eds. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA, 1993

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