Black-White Homeownership-Rate-Gap Has Widened Since 1900

Authored by Skylar Olsen via,

  • In 1900, the gap in the homeownership rate between black and white households was 27.6 percentage points. It’s now 30.3 percentage points.

  • It’s the widest gap among whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians – although the difference between white and Hispanic homeownership rates has more than tripled.

  • Asians have seen the largest gains, although their homeownership rate still lags whites.

At the dawn of the 20th century, the end of slavery was still within living memory. Lynching was widespread. Segregation was the law in some states and practiced in others.

Under those conditions, it probably is not surprising that black citizens had nothing approaching economic parity with whites. In 1900, 48.1 percent of whites in the United States owned homes, while only 20.5 percent of blacks did – for a homeownership gap of 27.6 percentage points.

More disturbing is that that gap is even wider today.

While more households of each race own homes now – 71.3 percent of whites and 41 percent of blacks – the gap is 30.3 percentage points, according to 2016 U.S. Census data.

It’s the widest gap among whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians – although the difference between white and Hispanic homeownership rates has more than tripled over the past century from 7.9 percentage points in 1900 to 25.7 percentage points in 2016.

Asians have seen the largest gains: By 2016, 58.1 percent of Asian households owned a home – up from 10.1 percent in 1900.

New Zillow research shows that in 2017, Asian home buyers had the most buying power and could afford a home worth $155,000 more than the typical U.S. buyer. A white household could reasonably afford a home almost two-thirds more expensive than a black household.

It’s important to remember that the demographic makeup of the U.S. Hispanic and Asian populations was far different in 1900. Beginning in the 1960s, more immigrants joined their ranks, and new immigrants tend to have different challenges and experiences with homeownership.

While homeownership is not the only measure of economic well-being, it can be a strong stabilizing force. Roughly half of the total wealth accumulated by the typical U.S. homeowner is tied up in a primary residence – and that share is even higher for black and Hispanic homeowners.

The highest homeownership rate among the country’s largest 35 metro areas is Pittsburgh, where 69.7 percent of all households – no matter what race or ethnicity – own their primary residence. However, the disparity between the share of white and black households that own their home is 40.9 percentage points – more than 10 points above the national gap.

The major metro area with the largest black/white homeownership gap is Minneapolis, where 75.1 percent of white households own their primary residence, compared to 23.9 percent of black households – for a gap of 51.1 percentage points. (African Americans in the Minneapolis area are more likely than African Americans elsewhere in the country to be recent immigrants — particularly from East Africa.)

The narrowest black/white homeownership gap among the largest 35 metro areas is Austin, Texas, where 64.1 percent of white households own their primary residence, compared to 42.5 percent of black households – for a gap of 21.6 percentage points.

In those major metros, the highest black homeownership rates are in Philadelphia (48.4 percent), Washington, D.C. (48.3 percent) and Miami (45 percent), Atlanta (44.7 percent) and Baltimore (44.6 percent).

The highest white homeownership rates are in Detroit (77.7 percent), Baltimore (76.4 percent) and St. Louis, Mo. (75.8 percent), Charlotte, N.C. (75.3 percent), Philadelphia and Minneapolis (tied at 75.1 percent).

The highest Asian homeownership rates are in Riverside, Calif. (70.3 percent), Washington, D.C. (68.7 percent), Orlando, Fla. (67.6 percent), Houston (67.3 percent) and Miami (66 percent).

The highest Hispanic homeownership rates are in Detroit (58 percent), San Antonio (57.2 percent), Riverside, Calif. (54.7 percent), St. Louis, Mo. (52.9 percent) and Kansas City, Mo. (52.1 percent).

Among more than 500 markets analyzed, only two had a greater share of black than white households owning their primary residences. One is Yuba City, Calif., where the black homeownership rate is 82.9 percent, compared to 56.9 percent for whites – a 26 percentage point gap with blacks owning more homes. The other is Tullahoma, Tenn., an area of just over 100,000 residents where 75.4 percent of black households and 70 percent of white ones own their homes – for a gap of 5.4 percentage points with blacks owning more homes.

There are myriad reasons for these homeownership gaps. We compiled some of those reasons for these three groups:

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Editor’s Note: April 11, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the landmark Fair Housing Act, which now prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and/or disability. The housing market has changed a great deal since then, as have social and cultural attitudes toward race and discrimination — but while a lot has improved, there is still much progress to be made toward ensuring true equality in housing. Zillow Research will be examining this topic throughout April in honor of Fair Housing Month, and we invite you to read all of our related research and analysis here.