The housing bust blurred one of the distinctions that we often use to define and divide ourselves: whether we’rehomeowners orrenters. In the midst of the crash, longtime homeowners suddenly became renters (some of them even in their own homes). And many longtime renters suddenly concluded that they might not want to own after all.
Single-family houses that were owned for years appeared overnight on the rental market. Wall Street investors who made millions off of mortgage-backed securities began to dabble in rental properties instead. And neighborhoods that were once entirely home to homeowners gradually became less homogenous.
All of these forces have challenged some of the assumptions built into the renter-owner divide: that everyone should aspire to own a home, that we’re all better off when people do, that homeownership creates citizenship, while renters make bad neighbors.
In a less theoretical sense, these forces have also begun to push homeowners and renters closer together. Jed Kolko, the chief economist at Trulia, recently ran a thoughtful analysis of how mixed the two groups have become in American metros. Borrowing from a technique often used to measure racial segregation — an index of dissimilarity — Kolko compared Census data between 2000 and 2010 looking at the distribution of renters and owners across metropolitan areas.
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