(October 2002) Homeownership is an American dream that cuts across all racial, ethnic, and geographic boundaries. But there are well-documented differences in homeownership rates between whites and other groups. In 2000, about 72 percent of non-Hispanic whites owned homes, compared with 53 percent of Asians and 46 percent of African Americans and of Hispanics.

For blacks, the difference in homeownership rates was greatest in the Northeast and in the northern Midwest, particularly in North Dakota, where 68 percent of whites owned homes in 2000, but only 18 percent of blacks did. Blacks account for a small proportion of the population in North Dakota (less than 1 percent) and tend to live in cities and towns, where homeownership is less common. In contrast, blacks were only slightly less likely than whites to own homes in the South.

The difference in rates for Hispanics and for non-Hispanic whites was most pronounced in New York, where 65 percent of whites owned homes compared with 20 percent of Hispanics. In 2000, over 75 percent of Hispanics in the state lived in New York City. Rates of homeownership were more similar in western states, where Hispanics were less concentrated in urban areas. The difference in rates for Asian Americans and for whites was less pronounced, and in one state — Hawaii — the percentage of Asians who owned homes (69 percent) exceeded the percentage for non-Hispanic whites (49 percent). However, the white homeownership rate exceeded that of Asian Americans by a substantial margin in most states in the Northeast and Midwest.

Over the past decade, the gap between rates of homeownership has narrowed, due in part to an increasing number of mortgage loans to low-income, minority households. According to a recent report from the Brookings Institution, mortgage lending increased by 98 percent for African American homebuyers and by 125 percent for Hispanic homebuyers during the 1990s.1 Rising rates of homeownership among minorities represent a positive step toward closing the wealth gap between whites and other groups. But recent economic data, showing increases in unemployment and mortgage foreclosures,2 suggest that many families are still struggling to make their dream of homeownership a reality.


References

  1. Nicolas P. Retsinas and Eric S. Belsky, eds., Low-Income Homeownership: Examining the Unexamined Goal (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2002), accessed online at www.brookings.org/dybdocroot/savingsforthepoor/

    low_income_homeownership.htm on Sept. 23, 2002.
  2. Sandra Fleishman, “2nd-Quarter Foreclosure Rates Highest in 30 Years,” The Washington Post, Sept. 14, 2002.

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