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Housing Data Reveals Gaps in Economic Opportunity Along Generational, Racial, and Socio-Economic Lines

Zillow Economic Forum will explore disparities revealed by housing data and how it affects people in different groups

As the U.S. housing market nears full recovery, widening gaps along racial, socio-economic, and generational lines are impacting the growth of the housing market and individual cities, according to a growing body of Zillow® research.

For example, though millennials want to own homes, the share of young people living at home with their parents has increased sharply. Black mortgage applicants are denied loans at a much higher rate than applicants of other races. And housing affordability is twice as bad for those making a low income than those making a high income.

These gaps in economic opportunity are the focus of Zillow’s upcoming economic forum Wednesday, January 11 in Washington, D.C. The half-day event, which is open to journalists, will feature a number of experts discussing data and proposed policy solutions around these three areas of disproportionate economic opportunity.

“Our research on housing has unlocked issues that are closely linked to broader social and economic problems in the U.S. – such as poor access to credit, weak income growth, and social mobility,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. “This forum brings together some of the greatest minds in economic policy and research to explore the troubling disparities in economic opportunity. We will focus on how different generational, racial, and socio-economic groups are affected, specifically in their access to housing and homeownership. I look forward to a discussion that gets to the heart of the issues that we at Zillow spend so much time thinking about.”

Zillow’s research shows:

  • Millennials want to own homes and have views about homeownership that are as conservative as their grandparents’. But the share of millennials (18-34) living at home with their parents has increased sharply over the past decade.
  • Since 2012, the share of younger millennials (18-25) living at home has decreased from 55.5 percent to 54.2 percent, while the share of older millennials – those 26-34 who were scarred by the recession in their first years out of college – has increased from 12.9 percent to 14.5 percent.[iii]
  • Young people are renting for longer before buying their first home, compared to a generation ago. And although first-time buyers’ incomes have not changed significantly, the median price of their first home has increased by about a quarter.
  • The homeownership rate for black Americans has remained persistently lower than the national homeownership rate for 100 years. In 2016, 71.9 percent of white Americans owned their home, and 41.3 percent of black Americans did.
  • Black applicants are denied home loans at a much higher rate than applicants of other races. Although the denial rate for black applicants has fallen in recent years, conventional loan applications from blacks are still denied at more than twice the rate of those submitted by whites.
  • Over the last 20 years, home values in the metro areas with the most social mobility have soared, making it difficult for low-income people to afford living in the very places where they could most easily achieve socio-economic growth.
  • Housing affordability is worst for those making a low income, even if they are living in the cheapest homes available. Nationwide, the bottom third income earners spend twice as much of their income on mortgage payments than the top third. In some expensive markets, those making incomes in the bottom third would have to spend more than half of that income to afford the monthly payment on the cheapest homes on the market.
  • The cheapest homes were most likely to face foreclosure during the housing crisis, forcing those families to rent while their finances were recovering during a decade of the highest rent appreciation in history.
  • Homeowners are disproportionately white and college-educated. Three-quarters of all homeowners who bought in the past year have a college degree.


Zillow® is the leading real estate and rental marketplace dedicated to empowering consumers with data, inspiration and knowledge around the place they call home, and connecting them with the best local professionals who can help. In addition, Zillow operates an industry-leading economics and analytics bureau led by Zillow’s Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell. Dr. Gudell and her team of economists and data analysts produce extensive housing data and research covering more than 450 markets at Zillow Real Estate Research. Zillow also sponsors the quarterly Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey, which asks more than 100 leading economists, real estate experts and investment and market strategists to predict the path of the Zillow Home Value Index over the next five years. Zillow also sponsors the bi-annual Zillow Housing Confidence Index which measures consumer confidence in local housing markets, both currently and over time. Launched in 2006, Zillow is owned and operated by Zillow Group  and headquartered in Seattle.

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