Americans under 35 have lowest recorded homeownership rate; what does it mean?

The latest Census data shows Americans under 35 now have the lowest recorded homeownership rate for that age group:

In the second quarter of 2014, the rate of homeownership among householders who are under 35 dropped to the lowest number ever reported since the Census Bureau first started recording quarterly homeownership rates 21 years ago.

In a news release published this week, the Census Bureau said that the homeownership rate among householders under 35 was 35.9 percent in the second quarter of 2014. That number was not only lower than any quarterly rate going back to the fourth quarter of 1993 (the first quarterly rate reported) but was also lower than any of the annual homeownership rates for under 35s that the Census Bureau has published since 1982.

However, a Census Bureau official also said that the 35.9 percent homeownership rate for under 35s for the second quarter was not statistically different from the rate for the first quarter of this year (36.2 percent) or the fourth quarter of 2013 (36.8 percent).

These figures on their own could support a number of different arguments about the fate of homeownership in the United States. On one side, those promoting more urban lifestyles could say millennials aren’t buying more homes because they are moving to cities and looking to rent units in order to have more flexibility and take advantage of the urban lifestyle. On the other side, others might note that this data comes 5+ years into the bursting of a housing bubble and that millennials will show more interest in homeownership when the economy picks up. Yet, to make such claims with this data alone would be irresponsible. To be honest, we need a lot more data than this to support any argument and know whether younger Americans do or do not want to own homes in similar numbers to past generations.

See the full Census report regarding 2Q homeownership rates here.

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