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Abstract: The recent housing market boom in the U.S. has caused sharp increases in residential property taxes. Housing-rich but income-poor elderly homeowners often complain about rising tax burdens, and anecdotal evidence suggests that some move to reduce their tax burden. There has been little systematic analysis, however, of the link between property tax levels and the mobility rate of elderly homeowners. This paper investigates this link using household-level panel data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and a newly collected dataset on state-provided property tax relief programs. These relief programs generate variation in effective property tax burdens that is not due solely to arguably endogenous local community choices about taxes and expenditure programs. The findings provide evidence suggesting that higher property taxes raise mobility among elderly homeowners. The point estimates from instrumental variable estimation using relief programs to generate instruments suggest that a $100 increase in annual property taxes is associated with a 0.76 percentage point increase in the two-year mobility rate for homeowners over the age of 50. This is an eight percent increase from the baseline two-year mobility rate of nine percent. These results are robust to alternative specifications.

Keywords: Property tax, elderly mobility, property tax relief program

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