Richard Florida: homeownership not related to economic growth and development

Richard Florida looks at some data and argues that homeownership is not related to several dimensions of economic growth and development:

The economic growth and development of cities and regions is generally thought to be driven by three key factors: innovation, human capital, and productivity. Homeownership, it turns out, is not related to any of them.

Take innovation and high-tech industry. Homeownership bears little relation to either, being weakly negatively associated with the concentration of high-tech industry (-.20) and not associated at all with innovation (measured as the rate of patenting).

Or consider the percentage of college graduates or share of highly-skilled knowledge/creative jobs. Again, nothing. The arrow in fact points in the wrong direction. Homeownership is weakly negatively correlated with both the share of college grads (-.27), and with the creative class share of the labor force (-.30).

What about productivity? Once again, no connection to homeownership. Homeownership is weakly negatively associated with economic output per capita (-.19)…

It used to be that homeownership signaled and led to economic growth. But that relationship was tied to the industrial era, when building and buying more homes primed the pump of America’s great assembly-lines, increasing demand for cars, appliances, televisions, and all manner of consumer durables. Those days are gone. The United States is a now knowledge and service economy; less than ten percent of Americans work in some form of manufacturing and just 6.5 percent are engaged in actually producing things. The stuff Americans buy is largely made offshore.

I wonder how this relates to the recent campaign from the National Association of Realtors regarding how building homes would lead to more jobs. While having more construction might lead to some good short-term outcomes, Florida is arguing here that homeownership doesn’t have a large influence on the economy.

Going beyond the economic impact of homeownership and building homes, these statistics don’t quite capture the cultural influence of homeownership in American culture. At the same time, the numbers might suggest that policymakers shouldn’t go all in for promoting homeownership for its economic benefits. Selling homeownership can be done by linking it to values of individualism or the American Dream but the larger economic angle doesn’t hold up.

I wonder what the story would be utilizing data that allow analysis beyond correlations…

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