Home ownership no longer defines ‘middle class’

Home values skyrocketed here and across the country in the first half of the 2000s and then imploded spectacularly in the second half.

Things are starting to improve, slowly. But there’s evidence the collapse did more than economic damage. It may have reshaped American views on housing and the middle class.

Survey numbers from a Pew Research Center report released today bear that out.

Twenty years ago, 70 percent of Americans saw home ownership as key to what it meant to be middle class in America. Now it’s 45 percent.

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The belief in home ownership as the symbol of middle class life appears to have been supplanted by the security of work.

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The housing recovery is still young. It’s possible the sentiment may change as values start to rising again.

Right now, though, there’s no doubt that people in their 20s and 30s don’t view home ownership like the generations before them — as the symbol of making it in middle class America.

Bonus chart: The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s House Price Index is a “broad measure of the movement of single-family house prices.” Here’s the index for Minnesota since 1975 (blue line is Minnesota, red is U.S.).

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– Paul Tosto

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