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The American Dream

2009-06-24 19:17:26.208205+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

Grace Wong Bucchianeri surveyed 600 women in Ohio, and then cross-referenced that information with tax records and census data to look at home ownership vs happiness. The paper is The American Dream or The American Delusion? The Private and External Benefits of Homeownership:

An interesting portrait of homeowners emerges from my analysis. While homeowners report higher life satisfaction, more joy from both home and neighborhood and better moods on an unadjusted basis, these promising differences become insignificant and much smaller in magnitude once I control for a basic set of confounding factors: household income, housing value and health status. Overall, I find little evidence that homeowners are happier by any of the following definitions: life satisfaction, overall mood, overall feeling, general moment-to-moment emotions (i.e., affect) and affect at home. The average homeowner, however, consistently derives more pain (but no more joy) from their house and home. Although they are also more likely to be 12 pounds heavier, report a lower health status and less joy from health, controlling for the less favorable health status does not change the results. ...

And note that this was done back in the middle of the housing boom. Of course it was also Ohio... Newspaper story, Newspaper story, and the inevitable MeFi entry. This whole thing also echoes Philip Greenspun's observation:

If you can rent anything decent, try to avoid buying property. Think about the most interesting people you know. Chances are, most of them are renters. People who rent talk about the books that they've read, the trips that they've taken, the skills that they are learning, the friends whose company they are enjoying. Property owners complain about the local politicians, the high rate of property tax, the difficulty of finding competent tradespeople, the high value of their own (very likely crummy) house or condo, and what kinds of furniture and kitchen appliances they are contemplating buying. Property owners are boring. The most boring parts of a property owner's personality are those which relate to his or her ownership of real estate.

[ related topics: Psychology, Psychiatry and Personality Health Journalism and Media Real Estate ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-06-25 15:02:00.508094+00 by: jeff

Someone summed housing up best when they stated that buying a house shouldn't be treated as an investment, but more for creating memories--especially when children are involved.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-06-25 17:24:17.182554+00 by: ebradway

The one caveat in Greenspun's comment - it's really hard to garden when you rent. I fully agree with Greenspun and enjoyed renting the past decade or so. But my wife really wanted a garden. The community gardens were all too far away (we did this in Chattanooga) and most condo associations don't allow gardens. Maybe that will change as more people want to garden. There's no reason the condo association in which we rented couldn't have set aside a chunk of land for a small community garden. But we also go, from our neighbors who owned their condos, complaints that gardens are "ugly".

I also have considerably more room in our house and complete freedom to modify as I like. I enjoy an environment customized to my needs - especially since I work at home!

#Comment Re: made: 2009-06-26 02:14:12.64819+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Happiness has little to do with home ownership. Anyone who read the first chapter of Flow would know as much. I never thought owning a home would make me happy.

And Greenspun is right: home owners do tend to talk about all that sort of stuff. Its like the weather.

Still, that doesn't mean home owners compared with renters are less interesting. Everyone interesting I know owns a home. Perhaps I'm just interested in different things than Greenspun?

#Comment Re: made: 2009-06-26 02:36:52.904687+00 by: Larry Burton

Both sons are now grown and I have little use for the room we have in our house. I'm ready to sell it and buy a large garage that has a small house and a garden spot out back.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-06-26 15:14:00.797427+00 by: meuon

Larry, I think you are on the right track. I just hired a lawn mowing service.. so even that drudge gets taken care of, but we really enjoy our small house. I enjoy that Nancy makes a big deal of the "Saturday Morning Housecleaning".. and it's mostly done in an hour or two, and then we decide what to do with the rest of the day. My electric bill last month was $65.

We've also thought about buying a small condo/apartment downtown when the prices get done "adjusting". We'd probably do even more things downtown in the evenings than we do now, and that's a lot. the advantage to our own house and where it is over a condo/apartment: walking around "comfortable" in the house (with the windows open) and the side deck.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-06-26 17:35:33.515271+00 by: ebradway

Mike - if I had your lawn, I'd hire a service as well - and I'm betting you pay them a good bit more than your electric bill!