Publication Date



Homeownership has historically been viewed as a fundamental piece of the American Dream, with up to 70 percent of households owning their home as of 2006. Yet it has also been demonstrated that nonwhites are less likely to own a home and that the value of their homes is much less than that for whites, even when social class is taken into account. This paper explores the overall life course patterns of homeownership and the importance of racial differences in understanding those dynamics. Based upon a life table methodology, we examine the homeownership patterns for individuals between the ages of 25 to 55 using 36 waves of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Our findings indicate that although the vast majority of nonwhites will eventually become homeowners, there is nevertheless a significant racial divide in the patterns of homeownership. Nonwhites are less likely than whites to become homeowners, are more likely to purchase their first home at a later age, are less likely to have acquired as much equity in their home, and are less likely to own their home outright. The implications of these findings are discussed within the overall context of racial stratification in America.

Document Type

Working Paper


Financial Inclusion


Asset Building

Original Citation

Hirschl, T. A., & Rank, M. R. (2006). Homeownership across the American life course: Estimating the racial divide (CSD Working Paper No. 06-12). St Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.


asset ownership, homeownership, race, PSID, secondary data