I’m still stinging from the lashing I received earlier today, from a commenter.

My blog entry was about a report issued this week by the Center for Housing Policy, a Washington DC group working to “broaden (the) understanding of America’s affordable housing challenges and examine the impact of policies and programs developed to address these needs.”

I said that I was skeptical about the results of their study, which stated that “working family” (this being those families making up to 120% area median income) homeownership has dropped since 1978.

A reader took issue with my next remark:

Really, though, as everyone knows, the decrease in mortgage loan rates has more than offset the rise in housing prices.

This set him off. (In my response to him, below, I provide a link to a story that states just that: homeownership costs have dropped (as a percentage of income), over the past twenty years, at least in most of America.)

I’m not sure where the anger stemmed from. Fed up with the cost of living? I guess so.

Regarding the actual blog post, however, I did some research, and what it tells me is, as I suspected, the authors of the report sliced and diced the Census Bureau’s data to support their needs.

From a presentation given in support of the study:

Whereas only 18% of working families with children had a single parent in 1978, in 2003 over a third (36%) of these families had a single parent. Similarly, while only 26% of working families with children had minority heads, by 2003 the minority share had risen to 42%. Over this quarter century, the share of working families with children headed by non-Hispanic white couples dropped by 24 percentage points as each of the other three groups gained. Both demographic shifts in household composition underlie the lag in homeownership rates.

Distinguishing working families with children by both family type and minority status reveals that ownership rates did rise between 1978 and 2003 for all 4 groups—both majority and minority couples and single parents. For each group except minority single parents with children, the rise in ownership was significant, with the increase greatest for white single parents (7 percentage points). The homeownership rate of 77.5% among white working couples with children was well above the national average. Among minority single parents, by contrast, barely one-third (32.8%) were owners and the increase over 25 years was minimal, and insignificant. [Emphasis, mine]

Okay, now I think I get it.

Here is the breakdown of 1978‘s numbers:

There were 11,900,000 “working families” (their definition, households making between minimum wage and 120% of area median income).

63% of working families were White two-parent households (7,497,000 families).
72.2% of White two-parent households owned (5,412,834 families).

11% of working families were White single-parent households (1,309,000 families).
48% of White single-parent households owned (628,320 families).

19% of working families were minority two-parent households (2,261,000 families).
49.1% of minority two-parent households owned (1,110,151 families).

7% of working families were minority single-parent households (833,000 families).
32.67% of minority single-parent households owned (272,141 families).

Here is the breakdown of 2003‘s numbers:

There were 19,800,000 “working families” (their definition, households making between minimum wage and 120% of area median income) (for the numbers below I use 19,602,000 because that’s the number the study’s authors use, due to rounding).

39% of working families were White two-parent households (7,722,000 families).
77.5% of White two-parent households owned (5,984,550 families).

18% of working families were White single-parent households (3,564,000 families).
55.2% of White single-parent households owned (1,967,328 families).

24% of working families were minority two-parent households (4,752,000 families).
53.1% of minority two-parent households owned (2,523,312).

18% of working families were minority single-parent households (3,564,000 families).
32.8% of minority single-parent households owned (1,168,992 families).

So, for every demographic, the percentage of working families who owned their homes increased, between 1978 and 2003, even minority, single-parent households (albeit, by a very very very slim percentage point).

However, here’s the weird thing.

In 1978, using the above numbers, 7,423,446 of the 11,900,000 working families owned, or 62.3%.

In 2003, using the above numbers, 11,644,182 of the 19,800,000 working families owned, or 59.4%. (There may be rounding errors, but these percentages match what the study’s authors are reporting.)

Because of the changes in the demographic profiles of working families, the results are thrown off.

Yeah, I’m still a bit confused as to how that actually happens, although I can certainly understand the concept. The minority, single-parent household percentage increased by so much that it lowered the total percentage of working families that owned, even though the percentage of minority, single-parent households who owned went up.

We should fault the study’s authors for doing something nefarious, if not dishonest. They took what amounts to a statistical aberration and used it to further their own (albeit worthwhile) agenda.

They released a report that sounded very ominous, and would make the average person take notice (and would get them on CNN), even though the data supports a completely different conclusion.

That’s pretty shifty.

Source: Locked Out – Working Families With Children Less Likely to be Homeowners Now Than in the 1970s – The Center for Housing Policy

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