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Why Millennial homeownership is so low

The Urban Institute has a new study out that looks to explain why Millennial homeownership rates are lower than that of previous generations. The typical refrain is that Millennials have a lot more student debt and that the cost of housing in urban centers has risen faster than income levels. But this report tries to put some math behind those explanations. All data is for the US.

Not surprisingly, marriage and kids are significant drivers, and Millennials appear to be delaying both. According to the study, being married increases the probability of owning a home by 18%. If marriage rates in 2015 were the same as they were in 1990 (this is the time period for the study), the Millennial homeownership rate would be 5% higher. Having a kid increases the probability by about 6.2%.

There’s also a widening spread between the homeownership rates for more educated and less educated Millennials. Presumably the distinction is a 4 year university degree. Between 1990 and 2015, the spread between the two groups increased from 3.3% to 9.7%. This was identified as an area of “great concern” because of the possible long term implications.

Combine this phenomenon with the stats that white households have a higher homeownership rate compared to all other racial groups and that having parents who are homeowners increases the likelihood of also owning a home (let’s ignore, for a second, the other intergenerational transfers of wealth), and you have a recipe for rising wealth disparities.

Of course, some of you will undoubtedly argue that in this part of the world we are overly fixated on homeownership as a mechanism for wealth creation. I mean, there are many examples of very wealthy countries with homeownership rates that are far less than what they are here in Canada and the US. But that’s a discussion for a different blog post.

If you’d like to go through the full Millennial Homeownership report, you can do that here.

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