Why Aren't Millennials Buying Homes?


In an opinion article for the Washington Post on August 22, 2016, Catherine Rampell wrote:

Millennial homeownership rates are way, way down. And believe it or not, that’s probably a good thing.

Across all age groups, the U.S. homeownership rate—at 62.9 percent—has now fallen to its lowest level in more than five decades. Among younger Americans only, things look especially paltry.

Homeownership rates among Americans under age 35 are barely more than half the national number, at just 34.1 percent. This too is a record low and about a fifth below its peak from the go-go years of the mid-2000s [sic].

A few years ago, I published a study for The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy, in which I explored the relationship between the American dream of homeownership and public policy transformations from the mid 1900s to the present. I concluded with four recommendations aimed at re-centering both the family and the economy around the home:

  1. Abolish zoning regulations that forbid neighborhoods from being economically productive simply because they are designated as “residential.” Regulations instead should permit non-disruptive home-based business practices, including e-commerce, consulting, or other activities that are no more obtrusive than hosting a child’’s friends for a birthday party. “The legal rules,” as Garnett [cited in the full text, below] remarks, “should not target the businesses themselves, but rather their potential for generating negative externalities.”
  2. Amend child-labor regulations to allow parents to employ their children in a safe and responsible manner, allowing—for instance—parents to hire a nine-year-old to file papers alphabetically or an eleven-year-old to build a website. The state’’s presumption should be that a parent’s home business functions not as a sweatshop for exploiting minors, but rather as a schoolhouse for instilling the virtues of cooperation and diligence, just as countless home-based enterprises did prior to the late-nineteenth-century separation of work from family.
  3. Repeal union-favoring legislation so that home-based entrepreneurs may compete for a market share in, for example, the knitwear industry, again provided that the work they perform at home does not disturb the peace of the neighborhood (which knitting hardly ever would).
  4. Replace IRS regulations that limit home-office deductions to household space that is reserved 100 percent for business use to a more reasonable threshold, such as twenty hours per week. If a freelance writer uses the dining-room table more often for work than for family meals, then why should the fact that it also is used for meals prevent the deduction?

Click here the full text of “Homeownership and Public Policy: What Helps, and What Hinders, the American Dream.” As you read it, ponder Rampell’s observation that millennials are not buying homes (or even renting apartnments, in many cases), and contemplate the connections between low marriage rates, low childrearing rates, and low homeownership rates. Why are these 30-or-so-year-olds missing out on what once was considered not only the American dream, but also an often attainable reality?

 

Dr. Ryan C. MacPherson is the founding president of Into Your Hands LLC and the author of several books, including Rediscovering the American Republic (2 vols.) and Debating Evolution before Darwinism. He lives with his wife Marie and their homeschooled children in Mankato, Minnesota, where he teaches American history, history of science, and bioethics at Bethany Lutheran College. He also serves as President of the Hausvater Project, which mentors Christian parents. For more information, visit www.ryancmacpherson.com.

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TAGS: Economics, Rediscovering the American Republic

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