Younger generations and the lost dream of homeownership

From a VoxEU post by Gonzalo Paz-Pardo:

Homeownership among younger households has been decreasing in several major advanced economies. This column shows that increases in labour income inequality and uncertainty are key drivers of this trend. Confronted with high house prices and low, risky incomes, many young households cannot or do not want to risk making such a big, illiquid investment. As a result, they accumulate less wealth.

Figure 1 shows that, in the US, younger generations are less likely to be living in their own homes than older generations were at the same age. Among households headed up by someone born in the 1940s, 70% owned their homes by age 35. This figure dropped to 60% for those born in the 1960s and about 50% for the early ‘millennials’ born in the 1980s. In southern Europe, too, homeownership rates at age 35 have dropped – by over 10 percentage points when comparing those born from 1965 to 1979 with those born in the 1980s. At the same time, young people are taking longer to leave the parental home and live independently (Becker et al. 2008).

Homeownership is a frequent subject of political debate. Owning a house is crucial for the wealth accumulation of most households (Paz-Pardo 2021), and housing plays a role in a well-diversified portfolio (Chetty et al. 2017). Shutting young people out of housing markets may distort their marriage and childbearing decisions (Laeven and Popov 2017), and homeownership rates relate directly to the strength of local communities, social capital, and political engagement (Glaeser et al. 2002, Rohe et al. 2002).

What has driven these changes? To identify the key factors, I build a model of homeownership and portfolio choice over the life cycle with a rich structure of risks (Paz-Pardo 2021). According to the model, it’s not about younger generations not wanting to buy their homes anymore: changes in the economic environment fully explain the magnitude of the drop in homeownership rates.”

Posted by at 10:51 AM

Labels: Global Housing Watch


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