Married Couple Homeownership

    NAHB analysis of the Current Population Survey’s (CPS) 2020 Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) estimates the national homeownership rate at 66.4%. This analysis provides a further breakdown of this rate through the lens of married couple homeownership, which we estimate at 79% for 2020. In addition to the overall married couple homeownership rate, two subcategories’ homeownership rates are estimated, opposite-sex spouses’ relative income levels and the age cohort of a married couple. Opposite-sex spouses make up 99% of all married couples, with same-sex couples making up the remaining share.

    The 5-year American Community Survey and Housing Vacancy Survey estimate the 2020 national homeownership rates at 64.4% and 65.8%, respectively.

    NAHB estimates married couple homeownership rates of two income-related subpopulations: the shares of opposite-sex married couples for which the wife earns more than the husband and vice versa. It should be noted that, outside of these subpopulations, there are couples whose spouses who earn the same amount, non-earning couples, and couples for which one spouse has negative earnings (net capital losses). Same-sex couples may take any of the earnings categories above, including the category in which one spouse earns more than the other. This post focuses on the largest category, opposite-sex couples; future research will expand on this. In many cases, non-earning married couples belong to older segments of the population, for which there are alternate sources of income, e.g., Social Security, pensions, etc.

    As indicated in the chart above, the share of homeowning married couples is 79%, of which 43% are married couples for which the husband earns more, relative to the overall population, and 18% for the reverse, almost 2.4 times greater. As women’s earnings increase in the labor market, this 2.39 ratio is likely to decline in the years ahead.

    The share of all married couples (including non-homeowning married couples) for which the wife earns more than the husband is 22.9% and the share of all married couples for which the husband earns more than the wife is 55.7%. Thus, the comparable ratio for the general population is just slightly larger at 2.43. This indicates that among homeowners, the probability of a wife earning more than the husband is somewhat larger than among the overall population.

    Homeownership also varies by age. The age cohort is defined by the age decile for which the head of household of the married couple belongs. The head of household is designated by the survey data. The spouse of the head of household may be younger or older.

    Homeowners are distributed by a natural lifecycle, with fewer younger households owning a home. The shares of homeowning married couples whose head is under 20 years old is 0.01%, between 20 and 29 years old 3.7%, between 30 and 39 years old 16.0%, between 40 and 49 years old, 19.1%, between 50 and 59 years old 21.2%, between 60 and 69 years old 21.6%, between 70 and 79 years old 14.0%, and between 80-89 years old 4.4%1.

    The lifecycle element is seen clearly by examining the homeownership rate by age of head of household, as plotted below.

    Notice the peak rate of homeownership is for the 70 to 79 age cohort. Homeownership rates post a small decline for those in their 80s, as some families move to rental senior housing or long-term care housing. Post-covid, it will be worth watching to see whether the homeownership rate for those in their 80s increases as people choose to age in place. Aging in place will be a source of remodeling sector growth over the next ten years.

    1. Differing homeownership rates by different surveys has been a consistent feature of homeownership estimates. These differences are due to timing and sampling differences.

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