I purchased my first home almost one year ago. Besides the steep learning curve of home financing, plumbing and electrical systems, and texturing walls, I have begun to pay attention to the demographics of other first time homebuyers. Many of my friends and acquaintances are also in the process of or have just purchased their first home as well. Through helping each other navigate everything from financing to DIY projects, two trends have come to light that hold true both in my experience and on a national scale.
The first is an exciting trend that has recently come to my attention: Single women are now the second largest group buying home in the Untied States, just after married couples. I was counted among those unmarried, female homeowners, as were many more of my female friends than their male counterparts. Considering the gender wage gap is still estimated at 80 cents for full-time working women to every dollar earned by men, I was very surprised to read that single women make up 18% of the home purchases in 2015 as compared to single men’s 11%. Studies suggest a strong correlation between home ownership and education, possibly accounting for this discrepancy between the sexes. In 2015, the difference between homeowners with just a high school degree and homeowners with a bachelor’s degree was 28%. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is a higher percentage of women completing their degree at all levels of education, from high school diplomas to advanced degrees. It seems to make sense that women now represent the largest unmarried group of home buyers. As a woman, I am extremely proud that we are slowly gaining ground on what has historically been a very uneven playing field in both education and property ownership.
While one trend suggests improvements for women, the housing market for young homeowners of any gender or sex has become quite tough. This second trend I have noticed is that homeownership among 25-34-year-olds down- almost ten percent less than is has been historic. These first-time homebuyers usually comprise 40 percent of home purchases; today that same group makes up just 30 percent. Speaking with friends parents’, many have expressed frustration that their adult children are not “as far” in life as they expected them to be in their mid-20s to mid-30s. Specifically, homeownership is often discussed as a marker of life success parents are looking for in their children.
The overall decrease in the number of young people purchasing homes can be attributed to the increase in the cost of living for young people. Rent is projected to increase 3.5% per year now, making it increasingly difficult to save unless you are part of the one-third of millennials living with their parents. Wages in most sectors of the economy have fallen. Retail, wholesale, leisure, and hospitality, sectors which traditionally employ over one-quarter of people ages 18-24, have seen wages drop over ten percent since 2007. Another contributing factor is debt. While more young people are receiving a bachelor’s degree than ever before, tuition and the subsequent student loan balances have increased between 60% and 84% since 2007. The average bachelor’s degree recipient owns $33,000 upon graduation, meaning many millennials must choose between saving for a house or paying off student loans.
While I am very excited to see more young, single women purchasing homes, I am concerned that the American dream to own a home is quickly moving out of reach for many more young people. Compounding debt and increased cost of housing are making home purchases difficult for many, and the increasing number of women making those purchases is not outweighing the more consequential trend that many millennials are unable to invest in a large part of their future.
This article was written by Erin Benton, a writer for dusk magazine.