Tuesday, July 28, 2020

First-Time Homebuyer Watch: 2nd Quarter 2020

Homeownership rate of householders aged 35 to 39, second quarter 2020: 61.7%*

The coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the nation's data collection efforts. Not only has the pandemic disrupted 2020 Census operations, but it is also affecting the many surveys undertaken by the Census Bureau and other government agencies. The result can be wacky data. With the release of second quarter homeownership statistics from the Housing Vacancy Survey, we have the first installment of wacky data. 

Taken at face value, the second quarter numbers suggest that homeownership in the United States has surged in the midst of the pandemic. Nationally, the homeownership rate climbed to 67.9 percent in the second quarter of 2020, a stunning 3.8 percentage points higher than the rate in the second quarter of 2019. The homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds appears to have increased by a whopping 5.6 percentage points over the past year. Every age group saw its homeownership rate rise substantially, as did households in every region, every income group, and every race and Hispanic origin group. The homeownership rate of households with incomes below the all-household median climbed 5.2 percentage points between second quarter of 2019 and second quarter 2020. Those with incomes above the median saw their rate rise by 2.3 percentage points. Black homeownership grew by 6.4 percentage points, Hispanic by 4.8 percentage points, and non-Hispanic white by 2.9 percentage points. These outsized increases in homeownership are most likely a statistical artifact of the pandemic. 

The Census Bureau's press release accompanying the second quarter data notes the impact of the pandemic on the survey. In-person interviews were suspended in March, and the bureau attempted to collect data by telephone from the households scheduled for in-person interviews. Perhaps as a consequence, the survey's response rates were well below normal. The second quarter response rates were 69.9 percent in April, 67.4 percent in May, and 64.9 percent in June—sharply lower than the response rate of 82.7 percent in the same time period a year earlier.

* Data users should exercise caution, the bureau warns. That's why there's a giant asterisk hovering over the homeownership rate of 35-to-39-year-olds.

Source: Census Bureau, Housing Vacancy Survey

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