USC Price School of Public Policy

CA Census Shows Housing Swap

California Census Shows Housing Swap

Dowell Myers SPPD Professor Dowell Myers
Photo by Irene Fertik

By Merrill Balassone

The latest California census data show the state’s oldest residents fled the housing market in greater numbers between 2000 and 2010 than during the previous two decades, according to a USC analysis released today.

That trend likely will worsen as the giant baby boomer generation – which accounts for 3.3 million of California’s 7 million homeowners – nears retirement. The first wave of this generation, including former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, will turn 65 this year.

The new data show a large sell-off by Californians aged 75 and older. But despite that loss, the state experienced only a 1 percent net drop in homeownership, thanks largely to young Latinos entering the market in large numbers.

Among whites ages 75 and older, 610,454 left their homes between 2000 and 2010. Meanwhile, Latinos accounted for 78.5 percent of the state’s homeowner growth during the decade.

“We’re depending on young Latino homebuyers to keep the market afloat, with some help from Asians, too,” said report author Dowell Myers, professor of urban planning and demography at the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development.

Myers said the state must now take steps to keep California’s aging population from leaving the housing market en masse, including designing more “elder friendly,” walkable neighborhoods that emphasize sociability.

Alternately, Myers said more job training and access to higher education will cultivate a stronger base of future homebuyers.

“We have to do something to balance the system,” he said. “We don’t have enough young people who can afford to buy houses.”

The report titled “Attrition of Homeownership in California in the 2000s: Seeking Generational Replacements and a New Normal” also includes a table of county-by-county changes in homeownership rates from 2000 to 2010.

Among the most notable trends:

  • San Francisco was the only large California county to post an increase in homeownership rates.
  • Los Angeles County largely resisted the housing downturn, with rates of homeownership declining just slightly from 47.9 in 2000 to 47.7 in 2010.
  • Orange County fared worst among the largest Southern California counties, with homeownership rates dropping 2.2 percent

Myers is director of the Population Dynamics Research Group and a specialist in urban growth and development with expertise as a planner and urban demographer. He has been an adviser to the U.S. Census Bureau and authored the most widely referenced work on census analysis, Analysis With Local Census Data: Portraits of Change (Academic Press, 1992).

Recent research projects have focused on the upward mobility of immigrants to Southern California as well as on projections of the impacts of a growing California population.

This report is part of a larger study funded by the Los Angeles-based John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation.

For a full copy of the report, visit usc.edu/schools/price/research/popdynamics