Housing and Neighborhoods

Three-quarters of adults were satisfied with their neighborhood in 2017, and a similar share were
satisfied with their house or apartment. However, satisfaction was notably lower in low-income communities. As one example of strain, nearly half of renters requested a repair from their landlord, and 18 percent of renters had moderate or substantial difficulty getting their landlord to complete a repair. Three percent of renters experienced an eviction during the previous two years.

Living Arrangements

Living arrangements are important for family finances and well-being. Sixteen percent of adults were living alone in 2017, and over half were living in a household solely with their spouse or partner and/or children under age 18 (referred to as a nuclear family). The remaining one-third of adults have living arrangements with other people that extend beyond the traditional concept of a nuclear family. Twelve percent of adults live with their parents, 10 percent live with an adult child not in school, 10 percent live with extended family members, and 5 percent live with roommates (table 23).

Table 23. People living in household
Category Percent
Live alone 16
Spouse or partner 66
Children under age 18 28
Adult children (all in school full time) 5
Adult children (at least one not a full-time student or unknown) 10
Parents 12
Extended family 10
Roommates 5
Other 1

Note: With the exception of living alone, respondents can select multiple answers.

Over a quarter of young adults ages 25 to 29, and slightly more than 1 in 10 in their 30s, live with their parents (table 24). Hispanics in their late 20s are more likely to live with their parents (45 percent) than similarly aged blacks (27 percent) or whites (21 percent). A substantial majority of people living with their parents say that saving money is a reason for the living arrangement. As people age, however, the financial relationship flips for some families. Over two-fifths of young adults in their late 20s provide financial assistance to their parents; twice that seen among those in their early 20s. Moreover, nearly one-third choose this living arrangement at least in part to care for sick or elderly relatives.

Table 24. Reasons for living with parents among young adults (by age)


Category 18-21 22-24 25-29 30-39
Percent living with parents 68 52 28 11
Reason for living with parents
To save money 69 87 84 71
To provide financial assistance 23 17 42 52
To care for sick or elderly relatives 10 9 30 42
To receive assistance with child care 4 1 13 12
For companionship/prefer living with others 43 35 42 35

Note: Among adults who live with their parents. Respondents can select multiple reasons for living with others.


For housing, 66 percent of adults own a home, 25 percent rent, and 8 percent have some other arrangement. Renters, on average, are younger and have lower incomes than homeowners. Among those with family incomes under $40,000, less than half of people own their home (table 25).

Table 25. Housing tenure (by age and family income)


Characteristic Own Rent Neither own nor rent
18-24 18 36 46
25-29 36 47 17
30-39 60 34 6
40-49 71 25 4
50-59 79 17 3
60+ 83 15 2
Family income
Less than $40,000 43 39 17
$40,000-$100,000 74 22 4
Greater than $100,000 89 10 1
Overall 66 25 8

Note: "Other" includes people who live in a house that neither they nor their spouse own without paying rent.

The median monthly rent is between $750 and $1,000, and among low-income renters whose income is below $40,000 per year, the median monthly rent is between $500 and $750. Seven in 10 low-income renters spend more than 30 percent of their monthly income on rent, which is the standard for housing affordability used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.33

One way to assess rental quality is whether the landlord makes repairs promptly.34 Nearly half of renters requested at least one repair, such as a leak or a broken appliance, during the year prior to the survey, and one-fourth experienced at least some difficulty working with their landlord to get the repair done. Just under one-fifth of all renters (or 39 percent of those who requested a repair) experienced moderate or substantial difficulty. The share reporting any difficulty with repairs is basically unchanged from 2016, although more now report moderate or substantial challenges.

Among renters requesting a repair from their landlord, white renters are more likely to say that those repairs were completed without difficulty. Slightly over half of whites requesting a repair had no problems getting it completed, compared to 35 percent of black renters and 43 percent of Hispanicrenters who requested a repair. This gap largely reflects more black and Hispanic renters having a little difficulty, rather than more serious difficulties (figure 19).

Figure 19. Difficulty getting landlord to fix problems with rental unit (by race/ethnicity)
Figure 19. Difficulty
getting landlord to fix problems with rental unit (by race/ethnicity)
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Note: Among all renters. Renters who did not contact their landlord about a repair are not shown.

Eviction is a less common, but more acute, sign of strain among renters and among those who previously rented but now rely on others for housing. Three percent of all non-homeowners were evicted or moved because of the threat of eviction in the past two years--which represents 9 percent of all non-homeowners who moved from another rental unit over this time. This frequency of eviction is unchanged from the 2015 to 2016 period. These evictions are somewhat more common in urban than rural areas, contributing to 9 percent of recent moves in urban areas versus 6 percent in rural areas.


Where to live and whether to buy a home are influenced by several factors, including where someone grew up, neighborhood amenities, and housing costs. Reflecting low rates of geographic mobility, nearly half of adults live within 10 miles of where they went to high school (see box 3 for a discussion of geographic mobility). But most people are generally happy with where they live. Overall, three-fourths of people are satisfied (either somewhat or very) with the quality of their neighborhood, and a similarly high share are satisfied with the quality of their home or apartment. Most are also satisfied with specific aspects of their neighborhood--including local schools, safety, and other amenities (figure 20).

Figure 20. Satisfied with local neighborhood and housing characteristics
Figure 20. Satisfied
with local neighborhood and housing characteristics
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Note: Satisfaction with the cost of own house or apartment excludes those who do not own and are not paying rent.

The rate of overall neighborhood satisfaction is slightly higher among urban residents (76 percent) than rural residents (72 percent). Additionally, adults living in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are much less likely to be satisfied with their neighborhood (60 percent) than those in middle- and upper-income communities (81 percent).35 Satisfaction with specific amenities, such as the quality of local schools, also varies with neighborhood income (figure 21).

Figure 21. Satisfied with local neighborhood and housing characteristics (by neighborhood income)
Figure 21. Satisfied
with local neighborhood and housing characteristics (by neighborhood
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Note: Satisfaction with the cost of own house or apartment excludes those who do not own and are not paying rent. See table 1 for definitions of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

Neighborhood satisfaction is also lower among blacks and Hispanics than among whites, due in part to differences in their own incomes and those of their neighborhoods. Eight in 10 whites are satisfied with their neighborhood, compared to two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics who are satisfied. The racial/ethnic gaps in neighborhood satisfaction extend to specific amenities, including local schools and safety (table 26).

Table 26. Satisfied with local neighborhood and housing characteristics (by race/ethnicity)


Characteristic White Black Hispanic Overall
Overall quality of neighborhood 80 66 66 75
Safety of neighborhood 80 64 65 75
Other neighborhood amenities 64 56 56 62
Local schools 62 54 55 59
Overall quality of own house or apartment 78 68 66 74
Cost of own house or apartment 70 61 60 66

Note: Satisfaction with the cost of own house or apartment excludes those who do not own and are not paying rent.

In evaluating the desirability of neighborhoods, people focus on different amenities that are most important to their lifestyle. The importance of some specific amenities varies by age. People of all ages think that it is at least moderately important to have a grocery store in their neighborhood and to have shops or restaurants nearby. However, while a local bank or credit union is important to those of all ages, it is less important to younger age cohorts than it is to those over age 60. Similarly, older age groups consider it more important to have a church or place of worship nearby. Conversely, younger adults--and especially those ages 30 to 39--place a higher premium on local parks and playgrounds than do older individuals (table 27).

Table 27. Neighborhood amenities that are moderately or very important (by age)


Category 18-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60+ Overall
Grocery store 88 83 87 88 90 88
Shops or restaurants 72 67 69 72 72 71
Bank or credit union 63 55 60 68 74 65
Place of worship 43 44 46 53 58 50
Library 48 52 48 44 48 48
Park or playground 51 60 51 44 37 47
Public transportation 40 39 36 35 34 36

The importance of neighborhood amenities also differs across urban and rural environments. Rural residents place a greater importance on a local church or place of worship than urban residents, but are less likely than urban residents to cite each of the other amenities considered as important to their location decision (figure 22).

Box 3. Geographic Mobility, Neighborhood Characteristics, and Family Support

Over the past several decades, the rate at which Americans move--both short distances within states and longer distances across the country--has steadily fallen. This reduction in geographic mobility also fits within a pattern of less job switching, more generally, or reduced labor market fluidity, as documented by Molloy and coauthors (2016).1 While the reasons for reduced geographic mobility remain an open question among researchers, evidence is mounting on the importance of local communities on individuals' economic outcomes. As one recent example, Chetty and coauthors (2014) have shown that upward income mobility from one generation to the next varies widely across the country and even within a single metro area.2 This year's survey can also be used to study geographic mobility and to pair it with subjective assessments.

In order to gain insight into geographic mobility, respondents are asked to provide their location when they started high school, which can then be mapped against their current place of residence.3 The distance in miles between the ZIP code where individuals currently live and the ZIP code where they were living in high school is calculated for each survey respondent.4 As figure A shows, almost 3 in 10 adults (age 22 and older) still live in the same ZIP code as where they started high school, and nearly half live within 10 miles. Those who have moved farther away from home are split fairly evenly between distances of 11 to 75 miles, 76 to 500 miles, and more than 500 miles.

A major predictor of whether individuals move away from their hometown is their level of education. Three-fifths of adults with a bachelor's degree live more than 10 miles away from where they grew up, versus two-fifths of those who have a high school degree or less. Those who move also have greater levels of income, which is consistent both with their higher education levels and with moving to seek out better economic opportunities.

An additional reason to move away from home would be to live in a community that better fits an individual's preferences and needs than the community that his or her parents had chosen for themselves. While the majority of adults are satisfied with the overall quality of their current neighborhood, those who have moved away from where they grew up are more satisfied with their neighborhood and their housing than those who stayed close to home (figure B).

Figure B. Satisfied with local neighborhood and housing characteristics (by distance currently living from where lived in high school)
Figure B. Satisfied with local neighborhood and housing characteristics
(by distance currently living from where lived in high school)
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Note: Among adults age 22 and older. Satisfaction with the cost of own house or apartment excludes those who do not own and are not paying rent.

According to a study by the Pew Research Center (2008), family ties are one of the main reasons that people are reluctant to move away from their hometown.5 Likewise, this year's survey shows a similar pattern. Among young adults, in particular, these family ties often come with important financial support. Forty-one percent of young adults (ages 22 to 29) living within 10 miles of where they went to high school either receive financial support from outside their home or are living with others without paying rent (figure C). Young adults who have moved farther away are less likely to receive such support. Financial support from others also declines with age, particularly for those living close to home. These data highlight how family ties and financial support are linked with mobility decisions as individuals enter adulthood.

1. Raven Molloy, Christopher L. Smith, Riccardo Trezzi, and Abigail Wozniak, "Understanding Declining Fluidity in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity (Spring 2016), pp. 183-237. Return to text

2. Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, and Emmanuel Saez, "Where Is the Land of Opportunity? The Geography of Intergenerational Mobility in the United States," Quarterly Journal of Economics129 (December 2014): 1553-1624. Return to text

3. The ZIP code of the current residence is available for all respondents, while the ZIP code of high school residence is available for roughly three-quarters of respondents. The analysis in this box is limited to individuals with both a current and high school ZIP code. Perhaps reflecting that ZIP codes were not introduced until 1963, older respondents are less likely to provide the ZIP code of their high school and will therefore be underrepresented in this analysis. Information on geographic location for individuals is not included in the public-access data set to maintain the privacy of the respondents. Return to text

4. Distance is calculated by matching each ZIP code to latitude and longitude coordinates and then imputing distance using Austin Nichols's Vincenty package in Stata: Austin Nichols "VINCENTY: Stata Module to Calculate Distances on the Earth's Surface," Statistical Software Components S456815 (2003), Boston College Department of Economics, revised February 16, 2007. Return to text

5. D'Vera Cohn and Rich Morin, Who Moves? Who Stays Put? Where's Home? (Washington: Pew Research Center, December 17, 2008), www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2010/10/Movers-and-Stayers.pdf. Return to text

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 33. Rent-to-income ratios are calculated based on the midpoints of the ranged income and rent responses. Renters who report no income are excluded. Alternatively, when including those reporting no income, 73 percent of low-income renters have rent burdens over this threshold. See Jeff Larrimore and Jenny Schuetz, "Assessing the Severity of Rent Burden on Low-Income Families," Finance and Economics Discussion Series Notes (Washington: Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, December 22, 2017) for a discussion of rent burdens among low-income families. Return to text

 34. Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (New York: Crown, 2016) highlights the challenges of rental housing repairs among low-income renters. Return to text

 35. Low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are census tracts with median family income less than 80 percent of the national median income. Middle- and upper-income neighborhoods are those with family median income above the threshold. Neighborhood designations are calculated with the five-year averages from the 2012-16 American Community Survey. An alternate definition of low- and moderate-income neighborhoods based on average incomes relative to the surrounding area, rather than relative to national averages, produces similar results. Return to text

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Last Update: June 19, 2018