Race and Home Ownership in Twentieth Century America: The Role of Sample Composition
Collins, William J.
Margo, Robert A.
This paper examine long-run trends in racial differences in home ownership rate and in the value of owner-occupied housing. In contrast to our previous work, we include female-headed households in the analysis. This extension is important, because female-headed households are less likely to own homes, and conditional on owning, tend to own less valuable properties. The incidence of female headship is considerably greater among blacks than among whites, and so there are certainly implications for our measurement of racial gaps over time. Both in levels and in terms of the direction of change, samples of all household heads (which include women) diverge somewhat from a sample composed solely of male household heads. However, the importance of sample composition should not be overstated because certain other stylized facts remain unchanged from our earlier studies. For example, regardless of whether female heads are included, substantial increases in the black/white ratio of housing values and of home ownership rates occurred between 1940 and 1970. Moreover, adding women to the sample does not alter a central finding of our previous work: between 1970 and 1980, the value of black-owned housing, conditional on the characteristics of the household head or the housing unit itself, declined sharply relative to white-owned housing. Where the inclusion of women really matters, however, is not in the racial gaps in ownership and property values among heads, but in the racial gap in children's likelihood of living in owner-occupied housing. We find that over the course of the twentieth century there has been essentially no racial convergence in the relative odds (black/white) that young black children would live in owner-occupied housing and a widening in the gap when measured as a difference in likelihoods (white - black). This lack of convergence is clearly correlated with the redistribution of children across household types, in particular, with the enormous decline in the proportion of black children living in father-headed households after 1960.