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«Contesting the streets Volume 18, number 1 • 2016 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and Research ...»

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Why has the homeownership rate recently declined and will it continue to fall? Consider six causal factors. (1) The underlying preference for homeownership or privacy could have decreased—but no evidence supports this hypothesis. (2) The risk premium associated with house price volatility has increased, raising user costs; however, the premium should fall in the future as house prices stabilize. (3) Although mortgage lending practices tightened following the Great Recession, they changed little after 2012. Households take time to adjust to requirements for higher credit quality and larger down payments, but a decade should be sufficient for this adjustment to occur. (4) An increase in households’ expected mobility raises the transaction cost component of user costs, but recent changes indicate mobility has fallen in both the general and the young adult populations (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2015b). (5) Rents have risen recently, but this rise should increase homeownership rates. (6) Perhaps the most important factor causing the recent decline in agespecific homeownership rates is the hangover of negative credit events, such as foreclosures, short sales, and bankruptcies. The impact on credit scores of these derogatory credit effects, however, is unlikely to last beyond 2020. Consideration of these six factors suggests that age-specific homeownership rates will stabilize no later than 2025, then will rebound, but not to the previous, boom-inspired peaks. Thus, while falling age-specific ownership rates may lower the aggregate rate for a few more years, over the long term I expect increases in their levels to positively affect the U.S. homeownership rate by 2050.

Another important question is—What homeownership rate will young households attain in the future? A worst case scenario is that they achieve the same low rate of ownership as the current youth cohort, implying only about 25 percent will own a home. A factor depressing the likelihood of homeownership among current and future young adults is college debt. Recent data indicate the total outstanding student debt is $1.2 trillion, held by 40 million individuals, averaging $30,000. Thus, 160 Point of Contention: Declining Homeownership The Future Course of U.S. Homeownership Rates instead of beginning adulthood with near-zero wealth, many youths have large debt, lowering their credit scores and requiring repayment, thus lowering their ability to accumulate a downpayment. The total impact of continuation of a low age-specific ownership rate among youth on the U.S. rate by 2050 would be a reduction of 7 percentage points. Combined with the most negative demographic scenario, the total reduction in the U.S. rate by 2050 would be about 10 percentage points.

There are multiple caveats to the previous analysis. It assumes that household formation rates remain relatively constant and that net immigration and public policies affecting homeownership remain stable. Household formation is difficult to predict because it is a function of the timing of home leaving (and return rates) by youth, and the rates of divorce, remarriage, partnering, living in groups, and seniors’ tenure decisions. The rate of net immigration, especially of low-income households, influences the ownership rate. Painter, Gabriel, and Myers (2001) showed that most immigrants assimilate slowly, tending to lower the homeownership rate. Current public policies favor homeownership, but these policies could change.

In summary, the aging of the population will slowly increase the U.S. homeownership rate. This increase will be more than countered by the aging of young cohorts that have relatively low ownership rates. The reduction in age-specific ownership rates will attenuate, however, when derogatory credit events are deleted from credit histories as time passes. Thus, I expect the current level of homeownership to fall by 1 to 3 percentage points by 2020, then stabilize, and then slowly rise. If age-specific rates were to rise to their previous peaks, the aggregate rate would rise to about 70.5 percent in 2050 because of the effect of the aging of the population. Age-specific rates should remain below their previous boom-period peaks, however, yielding an ownership rate in the 66 to 68 percent range.

Acknowledgments The author thanks Patric Hendershott for his insight into and comments on this essay.

Author Donald R. Haurin is a professor emeritus of economics at The Ohio State University.

References Painter, Gary, Stuart Gabriel, and Dowell Myers. 2001. “Race, Immigrant Status, and Housing Tenure Choice,” Journal of Urban Economics 49 (1): 150–167.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. 2015a. “Housing Vacancies and Homeownership.” http://www.census.

gov/housing/hvs/data/q215ind.html (table 7).

———. 2015b. “U.S. Mover Rate Remains Stable at About 12 Percent Since 2008.” Census Bureau Reports, CB15-47. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-47.html.

U.S. Department of Commerce. 2015. “Census Bureau News.” http://www.census.gov/housing/hvs/ files/currenthvspress.pdf.

Cityscape 161 162 Point of Contention: Declining Homeownership Refereed Papers Refereed papers that appear in Cityscape have undergone a thorough and timely double-blind review by highly qualified referees. The managing editor reviews submitted manuscripts or outlines of proposed papers to determine their suitability for inclusion in this section. To submit a manuscript or outline, send an e-mail to cityscape@hud.gov.





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Chantal Hailey New York University Leah Gordon Oregon Health & Science University Jay Silverman University of California, San Diego School of Medicine Abstract Previous qualitative research from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing demonstration program suggested the positive effects on girls, and not boys, of moving out of poor neighborhoods may be related to girls’ reduced exposure to coercive sexual environments (CSEs). In this article, we use a new measure of CSE. Our aim is to test the hypothesis that living in a CSE is associated with poor mental health outcomes, especially for young women. Data for this study are from a survey of 124 adult and 79 youth respondents living in public housing in Washington, D.C. We found significant associations between perceptions of CSE among adults and exposure to CSE among youth with poor mental health. These results establish that the CSE appears to have an independent effect on mental health as the qualitative findings suggested. They point toward community-level interventions that aim to reduce the CSE in public housing and other poor communities.

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Introduction A large number of observational studies have established an association between residing in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage and negative physical and mental health outcomes for children and youth (Brooks-Gunn and Duncan, 1997; Ellen and Turner, 1997; Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, 2004; Popkin and McDaniel, 2013; Sampson, 2012; Sampson, Morenoff, and Gannon-Rowley, 2002; Sampson, Sharkey, and Raudenbush, 2008; Wodtke, Harding, and Elwert, 2011). Moreover, experimental evidence from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing (MTO) demonstration program indicates that moving out of high-poverty neighborhoods may be especially helpful for the wellbeing of young women (Ludwig et al., 2011). One possible reason for this indication is that, in some neighborhoods, concentrated disadvantage and chronic violence may lead to the emergence of a coercive sexual environment (CSE) that results in chronic fear of sexual harassment and sexual violence (Briggs, Popkin and Goering, 2010; Popkin, Acs, and Smith, 2010; Popkin et al., 2015;

Popkin, Leventhal, and Weismann, 2010; Smith et al., 2014). If living in a community with a high level of CSE has negative effects on young women’s mental health, this phenomenon may explain why moving away from severely disadvantaged neighborhoods has positive effects for girls but not boys.

Concentrated poverty and disadvantage pose well-established risk factors to youth: developmental and cognitive delays; poor physical and mental health; and the likelihood of dropping out of school, engaging in risky sexual behavior, and becoming involved in delinquent and criminal activities (Brooks-Gunn and Duncan, 1997; Ellen and Turner, 1997; Leventhal and Brooks-Gunn, 2004; Sampson, 2012; Sampson, Morenoff, and Gannon-Rowley, 2002; Sampson, Sharkey, and Raudenbush, 2008; Wodtke, Harding, and Elwert, 2011). Neighborhoods mired in chronic disadvantage suffer a range of social ills, including high rates of violent crime, social disorder, and domestic violence (Kawachi, Kennedy, and Wilkinson, 1999; Sampson, Raudenbush, and Earls, 1997). In these disadvantaged communities, violence is pervasive, both within and outside the home (Fox and Benson, 2006; Hannon, 2005). The chronic violence both stems from and helps to perpetuate low levels of collective efficacy; that is, “social cohesion among neighbors combined with their willingness to intervene on behalf of the common good” (Sampson, Raudenbush, and Earls, 1997: 918). Research has shown collective efficacy can reduce both intimate homicide rates and nonlethal partner violence (Browning, 2002).

We have theorized that when disadvantage and violence are great and collective efficacy is low, a gender-specific neighborhood mechanism can emerge that has differential effects on male and female youth (Smith et al., 2014). To be specific, some communities develop what we have termed a coercive sexual environment, or CSE, wherein threats of sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and sexual violence of women and girls, even those very young, are part of everyday life (Popkin, Acs, and Smith, 2010; Popkin, Leventhal, and Weismann, 2010; Popkin and McDaniel, 2013). For girls in the inner city, experience with early and coerced sex can combine with structural deprivations to promote a life trajectory marked by school dropout, early motherhood, little or no connection to the labor market, and unstable family formation (Dunlap, Golub, and Johnson, 2004).

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Previous research supports the idea that girls and boys experience the effects of chronic disadvantage in very different ways, especially as they enter adolescence. In the 1990s, Anderson argued that young men in inner-city neighborhoods felt pressured to act tough to maintain respect, following the “code of the street,” and girls gained status and respect through getting pregnant (Anderson, 1999). In a more recent example, one study of African-American youth growing up in high-crime communities found that young men focus on maintaining respect and avoiding the risk of gun violence, whereas young women focus on the fear of being the object of predatory behavior (Cobbina, Miller, and Brunson, 2008). In her graphic portrayal of life for low-income, urban, African-American girls, Miller (2008) emphasized how neighborhood environments place girls at risk, noting that teens often believe that the girls are to blame because of the way they behave or dress (Miller, 2008).

HUD’s experimental MTO program found strikingly different outcomes for adolescent girls and boys whose families received special vouchers to enable them to move from distressed public housing to lower poverty communities. Girls in the experimental group fared unexpectedly better in terms of mental health and their level of engagement in risky behavior (Ludwig et al., 2011;

Sanbonmatsu et al., 2011). This result first appeared at the MTO Interim Evaluation (Orr et al., 2003); we conducted subsequent qualitative studies to explore this unexpected finding. That work suggested key differences in how neighborhood safety matters for male and female adolescents, with girls in high-poverty, high-crime communities also coping with pervasive sexual harassment and constant fear of sexual violence—in essence, a CSE (Briggs, Popkin, and Goering, 2010;

Popkin, Leventhal, and Weismann, 2010). We conducted additional qualitative studies and used data from the MTO Final Evaluation Survey (Sanbonmatsu et al., 2011) to explore the relationship between perceptions of neighborhood violence and disadvantage, reports of unwanted sexual attention, and mental health outcomes for girls. This research revealed that, in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage, young women live with chronic fear of sexual harassment and intimate partner violence, including rape, which has negative consequences for both their behavior and their mental health (Briggs, Popkin, and Goering, 2010; Popkin, Leventhal, and Weismann, 2010;

Smith et al., 2014). We hypothesize that relief from these environmental threats to girls’ sexual safety and the fear related to these threats account for the female-specific positive effect of moving away from distressed neighborhoods.

In this article, we build on this work to examine whether a CSE is associated with poorer mental health outcomes and with victimization, specifically, sexual harassment. We use new data to show that scales measuring CSEs appear to have an independent effect on mental health. We observed this outcome in our analysis of the MTO Final Survey, but we are able to demonstrate it more strongly with our new CSE scales. We specifically examine the association between CSEs and mental health outcomes for both adults and young people living in public housing in Washington, D.C. Our first hypothesis is that perception of living in a CSE is associated with poor mental health for both adults and young people. Our second is that these associations will persist when other indicators of neighborhood quality are held constant. Our third is that these associations will be weaker for adolescent boys than for adolescent girls.

Cityscape 167Popkin, Zweig, Astone, Jordan, Hailey, Gordon, and Silverman

Methods Conceptual Model The conceptual model that emerged from our previous work and guided the current research is illustrated in exhibit 1. According to this model, neighborhoods of chronic disadvantage (Sampson,



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