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The Link Between High Levels of Homeownership and Unemployment
Richard Florida / The Atlantic Cities / May 9, 2013
Homeownership is a vaunted cornerstone of the American Dream. It’s long been viewed as providing a path to financial security and the good life. And it’s often posed as a barometer of the health of the economy writ large. it’s been center stage, after all, in the ongoing conversation about the economic crisis and recovery. The American government has provided substantial incentives to spur homeownership for decades.
But, in recent years, a growing chorus of economists have argued that America may have gone overboard in its pursuit of homeownership. They suggest that high rates of homeownership distort the economy, tying people to places and restricting the ability of workers to move to jobs.
A new working paper provides powerful evidence of that higher rates of homeownership may in fact be connected to higher rates of unemployment. The study, “Does High Home-Ownership Impair the Labor Market?” [PDF], by economists Andrew Oswald, whose earlier research argued that high rates of homeownership undercut labor mobility, and David Blanchflower of Dartmouth University, employes a large-scale data set covering the past 25 years (1985-2011) and more than two million American households to examine the connections between homeownership and unemployment, labor mobility, commuting times, and new business formations.
The graph below, from their study, plots the association between homeownership and the unemployment rate for the past half century or so.