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Publication Date

January 2013


Kim R. Manturuk


Ford Foundation

This working paper examines whether there is a relationship between homeownership and health in lower-income communities. While past research has suggested that low-income homeowners may have better health outcomes than similar renters, the significant changes in the housing market since 2008 have necessitated revisiting that question. It may be that the health benefits associated with homeownership are no longer present in light of the high foreclosure rates in many lower-income urban neighborhoods.

In order to test whether there is a relationship between homeownership and health, I analyze data collected from a sample of lower-income homeowners in urban neighborhoods and a comparison group of renters in the same neighborhoods. I use propensity score matching to identify a subsample of similar owners and renters. The analysis reveals that homeowners do have a reduced risk of health problems when compared to renters. However, people experiencing financial hardship have an increased risk of health problems. Furthermore, there is an interaction effect such that homeowners experiencing financial hardship are at greater risk of a health problem than comparable renters.

This research offers some insight on how best to target policies aimed at providing help to homeowners experiencing financial hardship such as job loss or sudden medical expenses. Emergency assistance funds for people in these situations can not only help prevent mortgage delinquency and foreclosure but also help mitigate the health impacts that these stressful financial events can create. This research also highlights the need to improve the rental experience for lower-income families. Subsidies or tax incentives can be developed to give landlords a financial incentive to maintain high-quality rental properties. This can be cost-effective from both community development and public health perspectives.

This research is also detailed in the book-length work, A Place Called Home: The Social Dimensions of Homeownership (Oxford University Press, 2017), which is an analysis of the social impacts and non-financial effects of affordable homeownership.

Topics(s): Affordable Homeownership, Community Advantage Program, Default, Bankruptcy, & Foreclosure, Housing Policy, Impacts of Homeownership, Mortgage Finance, Other