They're keys, but to what? Public Domain.

What Does Homeownership Buy?

Regardless of racial or ethnic background, there is a strong American preference for home-owning over renting. While this is found to be true time and again, the reasons why people of different races want to own a home vary, asserts Brian J. McCabe in a recent Sociology of Race and Ethnicity article. McCabe compares the motivations given by African Americans and Latinos to those of Whites for purchasing a home, whether for financial, social, ideological, or some other concern, to gain better understanding of homeownership as a tool toward greater racial equality.

Using data from the National Housing Survey, McCabe considered five prominent reasons for buying a home: stability, social status, housing conditions, residential choice, and economic opportunities. He found that African Americans and Latinos, compared to Whites, were more motivated to homeownership by the promise of building wealth and achieving higher social status. The only category in which Whites expressed greater interest than non-Whites was in convenience of location.

Prior literature has examined the structural barriers to homeownership faced by certain racial groups, including residential segregation and discriminatory lending, but McCabe’s work addresses micro-level concerns and motivations. While homeownership is desired by all, racial minorities more emphatically see this step as a way to establish wealth and status. Structural barriers still more negatively impact non-Whites and the returns on homeownership are markedly lower for racial minorities, yet, because homeownership is still a huge component of wealth acquisition in the U.S., McCabe’s work provides a new nuance to our understanding of racial stratification and the wealth gap.

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