Achieving the Dream Of Owning One’s Home

Owning a home has always been central to the American dream, and not just for the native-born population. A new Census Bureau study shows remarkable numbers of immigrants are now homeowners. As of 2002, 68 percent of naturalized citizens owned their homes—nearly as large a proportion as the 70 percent of native-born Americans doing so. Perhaps more remarkable, 35 percent of noncitizen immigrants were homeowners. Among blacks, Asians/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics, the ownership rates were actually higher among naturalized citizens than for their native-born counterparts (see the chart). As you’d expect, immigrants who’ve been in the U.S. for a long time are more likely than recent arrivals to be owners. For instance, of noncitizens who entered the U.S. in 1990 or later, 25 percent are homeowners; among those who came before 1985, 42 percent are.

Of course, there’s owning a house and then there’s owning a house. A separate Census study says 30 percent of owner-occupied homes were owned free and clear as of 2000, with no mortgage. Even without a mortgage, owning a home is expensive. For units without a mortgage in 2000, median monthly owner costs (for taxes, insurance, utilities, etc.) took 10.5 percent of household income. For homes with mortgages, the figure was 21.7 percent.