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Race and Home Ownership in Twentieth Century America: The Role of Sample Composition


  • William J. Collins

    () (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University and NBER)

  • Robert A. Margo

    () (Department of Economics, Vanderbilt University and NBER)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • William J. Collins & Robert A. Margo, 2001. "Race and Home Ownership in Twentieth Century America: The Role of Sample Composition," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0110, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:van:wpaper:0110

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Higgs, Robert, 1982. "Accumulation of Property by Southern Blacks before World War I," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 725-737, September.
    2. Green, Richard K. & White, Michelle J., 1997. "Measuring the Benefits of Homeowning: Effects on Children," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 441-461, May.
    3. Edward N. Wolff, 1998. "Recent Trends in the Size Distribution of Household Wealth," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(3), pages 131-150, Summer.
    4. Collins, William J. & Margo, Robert A., 2000. "Residential segregation and socioeconomic outcomes: When did ghettos go bad?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 69(2), pages 239-243, November.
    5. Donohue, John J, III & Heckman, James, 1991. "Continuous versus Episodic Change: The Impact of Civil Rights Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 1603-1643, December.
    6. Long, James E & Caudill, Steven B, 1992. "Racial Differences in Homeownership and Housing Wealth, 1970-1986," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 30(1), pages 83-100, January.
    7. DiPasquale, Denise & Glaeser, Edward L., 1999. "Incentives and Social Capital: Are Homeowners Better Citizens?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 354-384, March.
    8. Margo, Robert A., 1992. "Explaining the postwar suburbanization of population in the United States: The role of income," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 301-310, May.
    9. Collins, William J. & Margo, Robert A., 2001. "Race and Home Ownership: A Century-Long View," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 38(1), pages 68-92, January.
    10. Margo, Robert A, 1984. "Accumulation of Property by Southern Blacks before World War I: Comment and Further Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 768-776, September.
    11. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis R, 1989. "Black Economic Progress after Myrdal," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 27(2), pages 519-564, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Radygin, Alexander & Akshentceva, Kseniia & Chernovà, Maria & Abramov, Alexander, 2017. "Factors Affecting the Liquidity of Corporate Bonds," Working Papers 041706, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration.
    2. Sedo, Stanley A. & Kossoudji, Sherrie, 2004. "Rooms of One’s Own: Gender, Race and Home Ownership as Wealth Accumulation in the United States," IZA Discussion Papers 1397, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure
    • N32 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-
    • R21 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Housing Demand

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