Homeownership is a significant part of the American economy—and, from many perspectives, the American Dream. Given the recent talk about rising house prices, one could ask whether prices are higher because ownership is higher or whether ownership is lower because houses have become less affordable. These topics are always complicated, but maybe a glance at the homeownership rate could help.
The FRED graph above shows the recent evolution of the homeownership rate, but the verdict is…unclear. The rate spiked through the early phase of the pandemic, which actually looks like an acceleration of a previous trend. But then the rate crashed back to pre-pandemic levels and seems to be staying put. These dynamics are much more complex than a simple story of housing demand and affordability can untangle, but maybe even-more-detailed data can shine a brighter light.
We have two ways to slice the national data: by Census region and by race.
- The graph above shows differences among Census regions. The Northeast and Midwest homeownership rates stay high after the pandemic spike, but we can’t see why only those regions are steady.
- The graph below shows differences among race categories. There’s no clear message here either, but these affordability issues do seem to plague Black homeowners, as their rates are definitively trending down.
Our only conclusion here is that these graphs aren’t enough to reveal the full story behind the homeownership rate.
How these graphs were created: All three graphs start from the Homeownership rates release table. Check the series you want displayed and click “Add to Graph.” To make the national line thicker, use the “Edit Graph” panel to open the “Format” tab and make the first line thickness “3.” For the last graph, start the graph on 1994-01-01, as racial disaggregation is not available prior to that date.
Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.