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Housing Choices in Aging Households: The Influence of Life Cycle, Demographics, and Family

Gary Painter and KwanOk Lee
The aging of Baby Boomers is producing a wide range of consequences across many economic sectors. Lasting attention has been paid to the implications of this generation’s maturation on the federal budget, but there has been considerably less focus on possible impacts on housing markets (Myers and Ryu, 2008). Conventional wisdom suggests that seniors remain in their own homes until they pass away – perhaps supported by high elderly homeownership rates (more than 70 percent in the past four decades for households more than 75 years old). In most cases seniors do remain in their homes, but recent research by Painter and Lee (2009) shows considerable mobility between housing tenure types for people over 50 years old. More than 25 percent of the sample in our study changed tenure status at least once after age 50 (see Table 1). Almost 15 percent switched from home ownership to renting, while 3.5 percent started off owning but went through multiple housing transitions. Those renting when they entered the sample but who later became homeowners make up 8 percent of the group. The remainder of the sample comprises those who always owned (53 percent) or always rented (21 percent).