At the moment, millennials are a generation of renters. Part of the reason is obvious: Money’s tight and houses are expensive. But some—myself and the Atlantic’s Derek Thompson included—have wondered if there might be a cultural component to our apparent aversion to homeownership as well, given that we’ve gotten our start in adulthood post–housing bust.
The below graph is from a newly released Federal Reserve survey about America’s overall economic well-being, which asked renters why they didn’t buy a home. Among 18-to-29-year-olds, the most popular answer by far (49 percent) was that they couldn’t afford a down payment. A plan to move soon was the second-most popular reason, with 29 percent mentioning it. Meanwhile, 24 percent said they couldn’t qualify for a mortgage. Only 14 percent said they actually preferred renting to the idea of owning. Finances really are the big issue.
These results are both obvious and meaningful: There are a vast number of young people who would purchase real estate if they could find something within their price range. Real estate developers are already building smaller, less expensive houses in order to cater to millennial budgets. It’s possible that we’ll end up as the generation that shrinks the American home back down to size—not out of desire, but necessity.