The Decline in Homeownership Is My Fault

All the carping about millennials has made us forget the real culprit: Gen X.

Bridget Fonda and Matt Dillon in "Singles" were prototypical Gen Xers. And do they look like homeowners to you?

Bridget Fonda and Matt Dillon in “Singles” were prototypical Gen Xers. And do they look like homeowners to you?

Atlantic Senior Editor Derek Thompson breaks down recently released Census stats that reveal that American homeownership is at a 19-year low. He’s a man with a good sense of humor, and he starts strong:

Let’s begin with the youths, as we must. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a journalist in possession of a negative statistic must find a way to blame Millennials for it.

Yes, Derek, and this is as it should be, I’m afraid, since millennial journalists are not helping matters. I recently heard a millennial pundit on NPR justify her generation’s value by noting that Mark Zuckerberg is a millennial. I mean, sometimes your generation just hangs itself.

At any rate, in addition to proudly saddling us with Facebook, this generation has been turning away from home ownership, as we see in this graph we’ve cribbed from the Atlantic’s website, which I can do because the millennials’ webolution has rendered copyright law incomprehensible:

Millennials: No Houses for Us, Thanks

But then Thompson makes a point I haven’t heard elsewhere—that the millennials are no more to blame than any other generation since the Baby Boomers. For example, my generation—Generation X—is even more culpable, at least those up to age 44 (Gen X goes up a couple years beyond that, Douglas Coupland would have you know). Thompson writes: “That’s right, Americans between 35 and 44 have had the sharpest drop in homeownership since the recession struck, far outpacing the national rate.” Again, a cribbed graph:

U.S. Census

He gets even more granular (I love using the word “granular” — it makes me feel as though I understand statistics) in what’s actually a very interesting post, ultimately asserting that it’s Gen X, not millennials, who are most responsible for the decline:

Falling Homeownership: Who’s to Blame?

U.S. Census

Though he’s getting cheeky with the data, it’s not all fun and games, as he notes in an update. Quoting Trulia’s Jed Kolko, Thompson points out that Gen Xers got hardest hit by foreclosures, which is to say that we wanted to own homes, we did own them, and then we got screwed. Unlike the millennials, who are just irresponsible, debt-saddled shirkers making things up on NPR and hanging out on Facebook.

Homeownership in America Has Collapsed—Don’t Blame Millennials [The Atlantic]

h/t Planetizen