It’s now been almost 15 years since the onset of the Great Recession, which, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), began in December 2007. Younger generations, like Gen Z, were too young to even know what was going on during the housing bubble and resultant crash. Millennials, likewise, probably really felt the housing crash when they graduated into a desert of job openings and economic recession, whose fallout lasted well into the 2010s (the actual end date of the Great Recession is June 2009, according to the NBER, but its effects were felt much longer). For Gen Xers caught up in the homebuying, mortgage-dishing-out maelstrom of 2004 to 2007, the housing bubble, housing crash, and resulting recession feel very much like recent experiences, as they do for Baby Boomers as well.
With U.S. Bureau Census data available for 2020, we can take a decade-long look at the changes in homeownership and housing since 2010, the year when unemployment peaked during the Great Recession. Many characteristics of housing and homeownership have changed significantly since the days of the housing crash.
Read on to find out the significant ways homeownership and households have changed since the housing bubble and housing crash.
Growth in the Share of Wealthiest Households
Looking at the data from 2010 to 2020, the change in the share of owner-occupied households earning incomes of $100,000 or more has increased markedly. On the national level, in 2010, 16% of owner-occupied households earned incomes of $100,000 to $149,999. By 2020, the percentage of owner-occupied households earning incomes of $100,000 to $149,999 had risen to 19.2% (take note: the 2020 Census was conducted before today’s historically high inflation rates).
However, the change in owner-occupied households earning $150,000 or more really stands out. In 2010, 11.7% of owner-occupied households earned incomes of $150,000 or more. By 2020, this figure had risen dramatically to 20.5%, and this is on the national level — not some city that individually became more expensive over the years.
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Examining the changes in housing on the city level from 2010 to 2020, there are some startling data points. In New York City, always an expensive city to live in, a little over one-fifth (20.4%) of owner-occupied households earned $150,000 or more in 2010. However, a decade later, owner-occupied households in New York City earning $150,000 or more had grown to just under a third (32.9%). That’s an increase of 12.5 percentage-points, which is equal to an increase of 61.3% in the share of the highest-earning households in New York City.
Chicago offers an even more incredible increase in the share of the highest-earning owner-occupied households since the days of the Great Recession. Back in 2010, owner-occupied households earning $150,000 or more stood at 15.3%. By 2020, however, this figure had grown to 26.9%, an astounding increase of 75.8% over the last 10 years.
A very interesting list of cities is revealed when we look at U.S. cities with at least 100,000 total occupied housing units (major cities that range from Plano, Texas, with 107,320 occupied housing units to, for example, a New York City, with 3,191,691 occupied housing units in 2020). The city with the biggest increase from 2010 to 2020 in its share of owner-occupied households earning $150,000 or more is Cleveland, Ohio: From 1.7% owner-occupied households in 2010, to 6.1% in 2020; that’s equivalent to an increase by 258.8% in 10 years (an increase by 200% means it tripled). So, while the share of owner-occupied households earning $150,000 or more in Cleveland — 6.1% — might seem small in comparison to New York City’s 32.9% in 2020, the percentage increase over the last decade is astounding in Cleveland.
Below you’ll find a table of the U.S. cities with 100,000 or more total occupied housing units that have experienced more than a doubling of its share of owner-occupied households earning $150,000 or more:
What’s interesting about this list of cities is the variety of geography. There are cities that were popular hotspots of growth by demographics like Millennials, such as Portland, Aurora, and Denver. But there are also cities that are traditionally identified with being part of the “Rust Belt” of deindustrialization, such as Cleveland, St. Louis, Columbus, Milwaukee, and to an extent Philadelphia (though the “Rust Belt” tends to be more Midwestern in location than Philadelphia). Then there are also cities of the Great Plains area of the U.S., like Lincoln, Kansas City, and Omaha.
Decline in the Share of Middle-Income Households
Meanwhile, owner-occupied households with incomes ranging from $25,000 to $99,999 have seen their share of all owner-occupied housing units decline from 2010 to 2020. Here’s a breakdown of the share of owner-occupied households earning $25,000 to $99,999 and its change from 2010 to 2020 on the national level:
Part of the reason for this decline could be due to the unrestrained mortgage lending in 2005 to 2007 to householders whose income couldn’t support long-term mortgage repayment. Another possible reason for this decline is the sheer expense of homeownership and its growth over the last 10 years. Home affordability in the U.S. has become an increasingly pressing issue, and with the rise in home prices and now mortgage rates, the issue is even more pertinent than ever.
On the city level, the declines in middle-income owner-occupied households can vary more sharply than on the national level. Analyzing cities by the same criteria as before (at least 100,000 total occupied housing units), here are the cities that have seen the biggest decrease in the share of owner-occupied households with incomes of $25,000 to $34,999:
Madison lost nearly half of its share of owner-occupied households earning $25,000 to $34,999 over the last decade. Oakland isn’t far behind, seeing its corresponding share decline by more than two-fifths. Looking at the decline in the share of owner-occupied households with incomes of $35,000 to $49,999, the list of cities is decidedly different:
And then there are the cities that have seen the biggest decline in owner-occupied households with incomes of $50,000 to $74,999. Here, we start to see some usual suspects, including Washington, D. C., and Oakland:
And, finally, the major cities that have experienced the biggest decline in their share of owner-occupied households with incomes of $75,000 to $99,999. The West Coast here largely leads the pack:
Portland appears in all four of the lists of cities above. Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., appear in three out of the four above lists of cities. That beats Anaheim, Arlington, Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose’s appearances in two of the four.
Cities Where Owner-Occupied Homes Have Increased the Most
Looking purely at the percentage growth in the number of owner-occupied homes from 2010 to 2020 is interesting because the list includes many cities that weathered the housing bubble and crash well or became major job markets — especially for younger adults and tech sectors — in the intervening years. Here’s a breakdown of the 10 cities that experienced the largest increase in owner-occupied households from 2010 to 2020:
New Orleans saw incredible growth in owner-occupied households, rising by more than one third from 2010 to 2020. And 33.9% over 10 years exceeds the rate of growth in total occupied housing units, 32.7%. The rate of growth in owner-occupied housing in Durham, 26.9%, also exceeds its corresponding rate for total occupied housing units, 26.1%.
In short, over the last decade, the share of owner-occupied households earning the top incomes have increased. Meanwhile, over the same period from 2010 to 2020, the share of middle-income owner-occupied households has eroded.