The Homeownership Rate and The Kerner Commission

 

photo by Marion S. Trikosko

President Johnson with some members of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, also known as the Kerner Commission

The Economic Policy Institute released a report, 50 Years After The Kerner Commission.  It finds that “African Americans are better off in many ways but are still disadvantaged by racial inequality.” (1) The report opens,

The year 1968 was a watershed in American history and black America’s ongoing fight for equality. In April of that year, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis and riots broke out in cities around the country. Rising against this tragedy, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 outlawing housing discrimination was signed into law. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in a black power salute as they received their medals at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Arthur Ashe became the first African American to win the U.S. Open singles title, and Shirley Chisholm became the first African American woman elected to the House of Representatives.

The same year, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, better known as the Kerner Commission, delivered a report to President Johnson examining the causes of civil unrest in African American communities. The report named “white racism”—leading to “pervasive discrimination in employment, education and housing”—as the culprit, and the report’s authors called for a commitment to “the realization of  common opportunities for all within a single [racially undivided] society.” The Kerner Commission report pulled together a comprehensive array of data to assess the specific economic and social inequities confronting African Americans in 1968.

Where do we stand as a society today? In this brief report, we compare the state of black workers and their families in 1968 with the circumstances of their descendants today, 50 years after the Kerner report was released. We find both good news and bad news. While African Americans are in many ways better off in absolute terms than they were in 1968, they are still disadvantaged in important ways relative to whites. In several important respects, African Americans have actually lost ground relative to whites, and, in a few cases, even relative to African Americans in 1968. (1, footnote omitted)

I was particularly shocked by one figure in the report:

One of the most important forms of wealth for working and middle-class families is home equity. Yet, the share of black households that owned their own home remained virtually unchanged between 1968 (41.1 percent) and today (41.2 percent). Over the same period, homeownership for white households increased 5.2 percentage points to 71.1 percent, about 30 percentage points higher than the ownership rate for black households. (4)

It is pretty extraordinary that the homeownership rate for African Americans has not really gone up, given all of the resources that were directed to increasing it. The FHA, Fannie, Freddie and other government programs have all focused on increasing that rate for decades. People of different political stripes will read what they want into this state of affairs. My own take is that wage instability has driven down homeownership rates across the board, but that it has hit African American households particularly hard. Households cannot commit to homeownership if they cannot reasonably depend on getting their wages month-in, month-out.

Poverty in NYC

photo by Salvation Army USA West

NYU’s Furman Center has released its annual State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods along with a focus on Poverty in New York City. The State of the City report is always of great value but each year’s focus is where we get to see the City in a new light. This year is no different:

In New York City in recent years, rents have risen much faster than incomes. The pressures of rising housing costs may be greatest on those with the fewest resources—people living in poverty. New York City has a larger number of people living in poverty today than it has since at least 1970. This sparks a range of questions about the experience of poverty in New York City that we address in this year’s State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods Focus. Who in New York City is poor today? Where do they live? What are the characteristics of the neighborhoods where poor New Yorkers live? Are poor New Yorkers more likely to be living in areas of concentrated poverty than they were in the past? How, if at all, do the answers to each of these questions differ by the race, ethnicity, and other characteristics of poor households?

Though the share of New Yorkers living in poverty has been relatively constant over the past few decades, there was a drop at the end of the last decade and then an increase in 2011–2015. Poverty concentration—the extent to which poor New Yorkers are living in neighborhoods with other poor New Yorkers—followed a similar trend, dropping in 2006–2010 and increasing again since then. The neighborhood of the typical poor New Yorker varies substantially from that of the typical non-poor New Yorker, but those disparities are largely experienced by black and Hispanic New Yorkers living in poverty. The typical poor Asian and white New Yorkers live in neighborhoods that do better on the measures we examine than the neighborhoods of the typical non-poor New Yorker. We also find that neighborhood conditions vary significantly based on the level of poverty in a neighborhood. Higher poverty neighborhoods have higher violent crime rates, poorer performing schools, and fewer adults who are college educated or working. And, poor New Yorkers are not all equally likely to live in these neighborhoods. Poor black and Hispanic New Yorkers are much more likely to live in higher poverty neighborhoods than poor white and Asian New Yorkers. Children make up a higher share of the population in higher poverty neighborhoods than adults or seniors. (1, footnotes omitted)

Policymakers should have a lot to chew over in this report. Let’s hope they give it a read.

Manafort’s Real Estate Deals

Paul Manafort

WNYC quoted me in Paul Manafort’s Puzzling New York Real Estate Purchases. The story opens,

Paul J. Manafort, the former Trump campaign manager facing multiple investigations for his political and financial ties to Russia, has engaged in a series of puzzling real estate deals in New York City over the past 11 years.

Real estate and law enforcement experts say some of these transactions fit a pattern used in money laundering; together, they raise questions about Manafort’s activities in the New York City property market while he also was consulting for business and political leaders in the former Soviet Union.

Between 2006 and 2013, Manafort bought three homes in New York City, paying the full amount each time, so there was no mortgage.

Then, between April 2015 and January 2017 – a time span that included his service with the Trump campaign – Manafort borrowed about $12 million against those three New York City homes: one in Trump Tower, one in Soho, and one in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.

Manafort’s New York City transactions follow a pattern: Using shell companies, he purchased the homes in all-cash deals, then transferred the properties into his own name for no money and then took out hefty mortgages against them, according to property records.

Buying properties using limited liability companies – LLCs – isn’t unusual in New York City, nor is borrowing against a home to extract money. And there’s no indication that Manafort’s New York real estate borrowing spree has come to the attention of investigators. In an emailed statement, Manafort said: “My investments in real estate are personal and all reflect arm’s-length transactions.”

Three Purchases, Lots of Questions

Manafort’s 2006 purchase of a Trump Tower apartment for all cash coincided with his firm’s signing of a $10 million contract with a pro-Putin Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, that was revealed last week in an investigative report by The Associated Press.

For the Carroll Gardens home, a brownstone on Union Street, Manafort recently borrowed nearly $7 million on a house that was purchased four years ago for just $3 million. The loans – dated January 17, three days before President Trump’s inauguration – were made by a Chicago-based bank run by Steve Calk, a Trump fundraiser and economic advisor.

Nine current and former law enforcement and real estate experts told WNYC that Manafort’s deals merit scrutiny. Some said the purchases follow a pattern used by money launderers: buying properties with all cash through shell companies, then using the properties to obtain “clean” money through bank loans. In addition, given that Manafort is already under investigation for his foreign financial and political ties, his New York property transactions should also be reviewed, multiple experts said.

One federal agent not connected with the probes, but with experience in complex financial investigations, said after reviewing the real estate documents that this pattern of purchases was “worth looking into.” The agent did not want to speak for attribution. There are active investigations of Manafort’s Russian entanglements by the FBI, Treasury, and House and Senate Select Committees on Intelligence. Manafort has denied wrongdoing and has called some of the allegations “innuendo.”

Debra LaPrevotte, a former FBI agent, said the purchases could be entirely legitimate if the money used to acquire the properties was “clean” money. But, she added, “If the source of the money to buy properties was derived from criminal conduct, then you could look at the exact same conduct and say, ‘Oh, this could be a means of laundering ill-gotten gains.’”

Last spring, the Obama Treasury Department was so alarmed by the growing flow of hard-to-trace foreign capital being used to purchase real estate through shell companies that it launched a special program to examine the practice within its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCen. The General Targeting Order, or GTO, required that limited liability company disclose the identity of the true buyer, or “beneficial owner,” in property transactions.

In February, FinCen reported initial results from its monitoring program: “about 30 percent of the transactions covered by the GTOs involve a beneficial owner or purchaser representative that is also the subject of a previous suspicious activity report,” it said. The Trump Treasury Department said it would continue the monitoring program.

Friends and Business Partners

According to reports, Manafort was first introduced to Donald Trump in the 1970s by Roy Cohn, the former aide to Senator Joseph McCarthy who went on to become a prominent and controversial New York attorney.

Long active in GOP politics, Manafort also worked as a lobbyist for clients who wanted something from the politicians he helped elect. His former firm – Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly – represented dictators like Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines and Mobuto Sese Seko of Zaire.

In the 2000s, Manafort created a new firm with partner Rick Davis. According to the recent investigative report by The Associated Press, Manafort and Davis began pursuing work in 2005 with Oleg Deripaska, one of the richest businessmen in Russia. Manafort and Davis pitched a plan to influence U.S. politics and news coverage in a pro-Putin direction, The AP said.

“We are now of the belief that this model can greatly benefit the Putin government if employed at the correct levels with the appropriate commitment to success,” Manafort wrote in a confidential strategy memo obtained by The AP.

In 2006, Manafort and Davis signed a contract to work with Deripaska worth $10 million a year, The AP reported.

Also that year, a shell company called “John Hannah LLC” purchased apartment 43-G in Trump Tower, about 20 stories down from Donald Trump’s own triplex penthouse. Manafort confirmed that “John Hannah” is a combination of Manafort’s and Davis’s respective middle names.

The LLC was set up in Virginia at the same address as Davis Manafort and of a Delaware corporation, LOAV, Ltd., for which there are virtually no public records. It was LOAV that signed the contract with Deripaska – not the “public-facing consulting firm Davis Manafort,” as the AP put it.

A lawyer for John Hannah LLC signed the deed on apartment 43-G for $3.675 million in November of 2006. But Manafort’s name did not become associated formally with the Trump Tower apartment until March of 2015, three months before Trump announced he was entering the presidential race in the lobby 40 stories down. On March 5, John Hannah LLC transferred the apartment for $0 to Manafort. A month later, he borrowed $3 million against the condo, according to New York City public records.

A year later, Manafort was working on Trump’s campaign, first as a delegate wrangler, then as campaign manager. Trump’s friend and neighbor had become a top advisor.

In a text message that was hacked and later obtained by Politico, Manafort’s adult daughter, Jessica Manafort, wrote last April: “Dad and Trump are literally living in the same building and mom says they go up and down all day long hanging and plotting together.”

In August 2016, The New York Times published a lengthy investigation of Manafort, alleging he’d accepted $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments from a pro-Putin, Ukrainian political party between 2007 and 2012. Manafort resigned as campaign manager, but according to multiple reports, didn’t break off ties with Trump, who remained his upstairs neighbor.

The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, said last week that Manafort “played a very limited role for a very limited period of time” in the Trump campaign.

Davis did not return WNYC’s calls for comment, but in an email exchange with The AP, he disavowed any connection with the effort to burnish Putin’s image. “My name was on every piece of stationery used by the company and in every memo prior to 2006. It does not mean I had anything to do with the memo described,” Davis said.

Buy. Borrow. Repeat.

Trump Tower 43-G was not Manafort’s only New York property.

In 2012, another shell company linked to Manafort, “MC Soho Holdings LLC,” purchased a fourth floor loft in a former industrial building on Howard Street, on the border of Soho and Chinatown, for $2.85 million. In April 2016, just as he was ascending to become Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort transferred the unit into his own name and borrowed $3.4 million against it, according to publicly available property records.

The following year, yet another Manafort-linked shell company, “MC Brooklyn Holdings,” purchased a townhouse at 377 Union Street in Carroll Gardens for $2,995,000. This transaction followed the same pattern: the home was paid for in full at the time of purchase, with no mortgage. And on February 9, 2016, just after Trump won decisive victories in Michigan and Mississippi, Manafort took out $5.3 million of loans on the property.  (Some of these transactions were first reported by the blog Pardon Me For Asking, and by two citizen journalists at 377union.com.)

Though the deals could ultimately be traced to Manafort, his connection to the shell companies would not likely have emerged had Manafort not become entangled in multiple investigations.

Public records dated just days before Trump was sworn in as President show that Manafort transferred the Carroll Gardens brownstone from MC Brooklyn Holdings to his own name and refinanced the loans with The Federal Savings Bank, in the process taking on more debt. He now has $6.8 million in loans on a building he bought for $3 million, records show.

David Reiss, a professor of real estate law at Brooklyn [Law School], initially expressed bafflement when asked about the transactions. Reiss then looked up the home’s value on Zillow, a popular source for estimating real estate values. The home’s “zestimate” is $4.5 to $5 million.

Reiss said unless there is another source of collateral, it is extremely unusual for a home loan to exceed the value of the property. “I do think that transaction raises yellow flags that are worth investigating,” he said.

Minority Homeownership During the Great Recession

photo by Daniel X. O'Neil

Print by Andy Kane

Carlos Garriga et al. have posted The Homeownership Experience of Minorities During the Great Recession to SSRN. The paper concludes,

The Great Recession wiped out much of the homeownership gains attained during the housing boom. However, the homeownership experience was very different across racial and ethnic groups. Black and Hispanic borrowers experienced substantial repayment difficulties that ultimately led to a greater share of homes in foreclosure.

Given that home equity often represents a substantial share of household wealth, these foreclosure events severely damaged the balance sheets of minority families. The dynamics of delinquency and foreclosure functioned differently across the income distribution within racial and ethnic groups.

For the majority, higher income was associated with lower delinquency rates and fewer foreclosures as a group. However, for Hispanic families this relationship was surprisingly reversed. Hispanics with the highest incomes fared worse than those with the lowest incomes. This counterintuitive finding suggests how college-educated Hispanic families may have had worse wealth outcomes than their non-college-educated peers: Hispanic families with high income (potentially the result of high educational attainment) had a greater share of home equity lost in foreclosure than lower-income Hispanic families.

Logit regressions suggest that underwriting standards and loan structure explain a significant amount of the greater likelihood of foreclosure among Black and Hispanic borrowers. However, underwriting standards explained more of the gap for Black borrowers, while loan structure was a stronger factor among Hispanic borrowers. Regional concentration and variation in housing markets explained more of the Hispanic-White foreclosure gap than any other group. This is understandable given that Hispanic borrowers in our sample were heavily concentrated in housing markets that experienced some of the largest volatility. Despite accounting for these important factors, sizable gaps remain in foreclosures among Blacks and Hispanics relative to Whites. Incorporating measures of labor market outcomes into the analysis may offer further insights.

In sum, the homeownership experience during the Great Recession proved to be inimical for many families, but far more so for Black and Hispanic families. For these families, financially destructive foreclosure events delayed and potentially derailed the dream of homeownership. (164-65)

I am not sure what this all means for housing finance policy other than the obvious: consumer protection in the mortgage market is a good thing as it ensures that underwriting standards evaluate ability-to-repay and loan structures exclude abusive terms like teaser rates (thanks to the ATR and QM rules and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). There are probably other policies that we should consider to reduce the depths of our busts, but they do not seem likely to gain traction in the current political environment.

New Landlord in Town

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter in "It's A Wonderful Life"

Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter in “It’s A Wonderful Life”

Bloomberg quoted me in Wall Street, America’s New Landlord, Kicks Tenants to the Curb. It opens,

On a chilly December afternoon in Atlanta, a judge told Reiton Allen that he had seven days to leave his house or the marshals would kick his belongings to the curb. In the packed courtroom, the truck driver, his beard flecked with gray, stood up, cast his eyes downward and clutched his black baseball cap.

The 44-year-old father of two had rented a single-family house from a company called HavenBrook Homes, which is controlled by one of the world’s biggest money managers, Pacific Investment Management Co. Here in Fulton County, Georgia, such large institutional investors are up to twice as likely to file eviction notices as smaller owners, according to a new Atlanta Federal Reserve study.

“I’ve never been displaced like this,” said Allen, who said he fell behind because of unexpected childcare expenses as his rent rose above $900 a month. “I need to go home and regroup.”

Hedge funds, large investment firms and private equity companies helped the U.S. housing market recover after the crash in 2008 by turning empty foreclosures from Atlanta to Las Vegas into occupied rentals.

Now among America’s biggest landlords, some of these companies are leaving tenants like Allen in the cold. In a business long dominated by mom-and-pop landlords, large-scale investors are shifting collections conversations from front stoops to call centers and courtrooms as they try to maximize profits.

“My hope was that these private equity firms would provide a new kind of rental housing for people who couldn’t — or didn’t want to — buy during the housing recovery,” said Elora Raymond, the report’s lead author. “Instead, it seems like they’re contributing to housing instability in Atlanta, and possibly other places.”

American Homes 4 Rent, one of the nation’s largest operators, and HavenBrook filed eviction notices at a quarter of its houses, compared with an average 15 percent for all single-family home landlords, according to Ben Miller, a Georgia State University professor and co-author of the report. HavenBrook — owned by Allianz SE’s Newport Beach, California-based Pimco — and American Homes 4 Rent, based in Agoura Hills, California, declined to comment.

Colony Starwood Homes initiated proceedings on a third of its properties, the most of any large real estate firm. Tom Barrack, chairman of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration committee, and the company he founded, Colony Capital, are the largest shareholders of Colony Starwood, which declined to comment.

Diane Tomb, executive director of the National Rental Home Council, which represents institutional landlords, said her members offer flexible payment plans to residents who fall behind. The cost of eviction makes it “the last option,” Tomb said. The Fed examined notices, rather than completed evictions, which are rarer, she said.

“We’re in the business to house families — and no one wants to see people displaced,” Tomb said.

According to a report last year from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, a record 21.3 million renters spent more than a third of their income on housing costs in 2014, while 11.4 million spent more than half. With credit tightening, the homeownership rate has fallen close to a 51-year low.

In January 2012, then-Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke encouraged investors to use their cash to stabilize the housing market and rehabilitate the vacant single-family houses that damage neighborhoods and property values.

Now, the Atlanta Fed’s own research suggests that the eviction practices of big landlords may also be destabilizing. An eviction notice can ruin a family’s credit and make it more difficult to rent elsewhere or qualify for public assistance.

Collection Strategy?

In Atlanta, evictions are much easier on landlords. They are cheap: about $85 in court fees and another $20 to have the tenant ejected, according to Michael Lucas, a co-author of the report and deputy director of the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. With few of the tenant protections of places like New York, a family can find itself homeless in less than a month.

In interviews and court filings, renters and housing advocates said that some investment firms are impersonal and unresponsive, slow to make necessary repairs and quick to evict tenants who withhold rent because of complaints about maintenance. The researchers said some landlords use an eviction notice as a “routine rent-collection strategy.”

Aaron Kuney, HavenBrook’s former executive director of acquisitions, said the companies would rather keep their existing tenants as long as possible to avoid turnover costs.

But “they want to get them out quickly if they can’t pay,” said Kuney, now chief executive officer of Piedmont Asset Management, a private equity landlord in Atlanta. “Finding people these days to rent your homes is not a problem.”

Poor Neighborhoods

The Atlanta Fed research, based on 2015 court records, marks an early look at Wall Street’s role in evictions since investment firms snapped up hundreds of thousands of homes in hard-hit markets across the U.S.

Researchers found that evictions for all kinds of landlords are concentrated in poor, mostly black neighborhoods southwest of the city. But the study found that the big investors evicted at higher rates even after accounting for the demographics of the community where homes were situated.

Tomb, of the National Rental Home Council, said institutional investors at times buy large blocks of homes from other landlords and inherit tenants who can’t afford to pay rent. They also buy foreclosed homes whose occupants may refuse to sign leases or leave.

Those cases make the eviction rates appear higher than for smaller landlords, according to Tomb, whose group represents Colony Starwood, American Homes 4 Rent and Invitation Homes. The largest firms send notices at rates similar to apartment buildings, which house the majority of Atlanta renters.

Staying Home

Not all investment firms file evictions at higher rates. Invitation Homes, a unit of private equity giant Blackstone Group LP that is planning an initial public offering this year, sent notices on 14 percent of homes, about the same as smaller landlords, records show. In Fulton County, Invitation Homes works with residents to resolve 85 percent of cases, and less than 4 percent result in forced departures, according to spokeswoman Claire Parker.

The Fed research doesn’t say why many institutional investors evict at higher rates. It could be because their size enables them to negotiate less expensive legal rates and replace renters more quickly than mom-and-pop operators.

“Lots of small landlords, when they have good tenants who don’t cause trouble, they’ll work with someone who has lost a job or can’t pay for the short term,” said David Reiss, a Brooklyn Law School professor who specializes in residential real estate.

Plunging Minority Homeownership Rates

father-daughter-725x483

Construction Dive quoted me in Why Minority Homeownership Rates Plunged After the Housing Crash — and How to Reverse The Trend. It opens,

The recovery from the 2007 U.S. housing crash is still underway, with the ramifications of foreclosures and subprime mortgages still playing out for many current and potential American homeowners. Northeastern markets are still struggling to clear out crisis-era inventory, largely due to foreclosure laws, and members of Generation X — one of the hardest hit groups during the crash — are just now building up the required financial strength and confidence to claw their way back to homeownership.

While the Census Bureau Housing Vacancy Survey indicated that U.S. homeownership overall was 63.5% in the first quarter of 2016 — down significantly from a 25-year average of 66.2% — the groups encountering the most difficulties snapping back from the housing crisis are the black and Hispanic populations.

The Census Bureau found that 41.5% of black households and 45.3% of Hispanic households are currently homeowners, compared to 72.1% of white households. And last year, while the Urban Institute projected that Hispanic homeownership would rise over the next 15 years, it also predicted that black homeownership would drop to 40%.

The stagnant and declining minority homeownership numbers are clear, but experts have varying views regarding why this situation is occurring and what can be done to reverse the trend.

 *     *     *

In Newark, NJ, for example, entire minority neighborhoods were targeted with home renovation schemes, which ended in high-interest home equity loans for the consumer, according to David Reiss, professor of law and academic program director for urban business entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School. “You would see entire streets with home improvement projects through the same company,” he said.

A study by University of Buffalo professor Gregory Sharp and Cornell University professor Matthew Hall found that “race was the leading explanation for why people lost homes they owned and turned back to rentals.” Sharp and Hall said that minorities were “exploited” by the mortgage lending system, which led to blacks being 50% more likely than whites to lose their homes and enter the rental market.

After the housing market crash, there weren’t enough educational resources and financial literacy programs available to minority groups to help them navigate the “new normal” of adjustable-rate mortgages and increases to their monthly payments, according to Franky Bonilla, with Churchill Mortgage in Houston. “Without access to even the most basic information, such as how to save money or properly document income, many borrowers were unequipped to overcome (these problems), and, as a result, many owners walked away from their homes,” he said.

How to boost homeownership among minorities

So with minority homeownership rates lagging — and in some cases sinking — since the housing crisis, what’s the answer to reverse the trend?

Bonilla, who is also a member of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), said approximately 60% of his business comes from minority homeowners and that this group in particular could benefit from borrower education and outreach, such as bilingual employees, as well as workshops and seminars.

“Lenders with more cultural diversity have an advantage because they can relate and communicate more effectively with individuals who might otherwise feel disadvantaged or intimidated by the mortgage process,” Bonilla said. “In turn, this creates an opportunity to establish a relationship at a personal level and determine which mortgage options are the best fit for each borrower’s unique financial situation.”

Another possible solution to increasing minority homeownership rates, along with homeownership among those who don’t meet the credit requirements for prime loans, is an overhaul of lending criteria for mortgages.

Reiss said there has been a move by some housing advocates to have credit for mortgage purposes reflect factors more indicative of future success as a homeowner. One of the critical issues, however, is to try to determine exactly how much credit is the right amount of credit. “You want to make credit available to people without having excessive default rates,” Reiss said. “Clearly the amount of credit we had in the early 2000s was too much credit, and it ended poorly for many people.”

Reiss added that home lending has always involved a careful balance between underwriting and available credit. “I think everyone would agree that the ‘Wild West’ days of lending were not good for American households in general,” he said.

Mommy, I’m Home!

cartoon by Mell Lazarus

The Pew Research Center has released For First Time in Modern Era, Living with Parents Edges out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds (link for complete report on right side of page). This report adds to the growing literature on changes in household formation (see here, for instance) that have taken hold in large part since the financial crisis. There are lots of reasons to think that the way we live now is different from how we lived one generation, two generations, three generations ago.

The report opens,

Broad demographic shifts in marital status, educational attainment and employment have transformed the way young adults in the U.S. are living, and a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data highlights the implications of these changes for the most basic element of their lives – where they call home. In 2014, for the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were slightly more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household.

This turn of events is fueled primarily by the dramatic drop in the share of young Americans who are choosing to settle down romantically before age 35. Dating back to 1880, the most common living arrangement among young adults has been living with a romantic partner, whether a spouse or a significant other. This type of arrangement peaked around 1960, when 62% of the nation’s 18- to 34-year-olds were living with a spouse or partner in their own household, and only one-in-five were living with their parents. (4, footnotes omitted)

The report found that education, race and ethnicity was linked to young adult living arrangements. Less educated young adults were more likely to live with a parent as were black and Hispanic young adults. Some of the other key findings include,

  • The growing tendency of young adults to live with parents predates the Great Recession. In 1960, 20% of 18- to 34-year-olds lived with mom and/or dad. In 2007, before the recession, 28% lived in their parental home.
  • In 2014, 40% of 18- to 34-year-olds who had not completed high school lived with parent(s), the highest rate observed since the 1940 Census when information on educational attainment was first collected.
  • Young adults in states in the South Atlantic, West South Central and Pacific United States have recently experienced the highest rates on record of living with parent(s).
  • With few exceptions, since 1880 young men across all races and ethnicities have been more likely than young women to live in the home of their parent(s).
  • The changing demographic characteristics of young adults—age, racial and ethnic diversity, rising college enrollment—explain little of the increase in living with parent(s) (8-9)

It seems like unemployment and underemployment; student debt; and postponement or retreat from the institution of marriage all play a role in delaying young adult household formation.

My own idiosyncratic takeaway from the report is that, boy, the way we live now sure is different from how earlier generations lived (look at the graph on page 4 to see what I mean). Moreover, there is no reason to think that one way is more “natural” or better than the other. That being said, it sure is worth figuring out what we are doing now in order to craft policies to properly respond to it.