Housing—especially the cost of housing and housing tenure type—affects people's economic well-being. The majority of adults owned their homes. Adults who rented their homes were disproportionately lower-income, Black, or Hispanic. The share of renters who had been behind on their rent in the prior 12 months was higher than the level before the pandemic. Among homeowners, the refinancing wave continued, although high-income borrowers were primarily the beneficiaries of this opportunity.
Living arrangements can affect family finances and well-being. Eighty-six percent of adults lived with other people, usually a spouse or a partner and frequently their children under age 18 (table 15). More than half (52 percent) of all adults lived in a household with a spouse or partner or with a child under age 18 and with no one else. Other types of living arrangements were less common. Still, more than one-fourth of adults (28 percent) lived in a household that contains multiple generations of adults, meaning that the adult respondents either lived with their parents or adult children.
Table 15. Other people living in household
|Spouse or partner
|Children under age 18
|Adult children age 18 or older
|Brothers or sisters
Note: Among all adults. Respondents (other than those who live alone) can select multiple answers.
Older adults, and older women in particular, were the most likely to live alone. Twenty-one percent of adults age 65 or older lived alone, and 27 percent of women age 65 or older lived alone. In contrast, young adults were very likely to live with their parents. But this rate drops significantly for adults in their mid- and late 20s: 47 percent of 22- to 24-year-olds lived with their parents compared with 27 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds. Fewer adults in older age cohorts live with their parents: 13 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds live with their parents and 7 percent of 45- to 59-year-olds live with their parents. Conversely, the share living with a spouse or partner increased with age, from 26 percent of 22- to 24-year-olds to 52 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds.42
A substantial majority of young adults living with their parents said that saving money was a reason for their living arrangement. Overall, three-fourths of people who lived with their parents said this was to save money. However, the direction of financial support flips for many older adults who live with their parents. Fifty-seven percent of adults ages 30 to 44 who lived with their parents said that providing financial help was a reason, as did 61 percent of those ages 45 to 59 (table 16).
Table 16. Reasons for living with parents (by age)
|To save money
|To help them financially
|To provide help with childcare or medical care
|To receive help with childcare or medical care
|Prefer living with others
Note: Among people living with parents. Respondents could select multiple answers.
Another common reason for living with parents was to provide care, especially as people get older. Twenty-one percent of people who lived with their parents gave this reason. Adults in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who lived with their parents were more likely to say that they lived with others for caregiving reasons. Forty-five percent of 45- to 59-year-olds who lived with their parents said they lived with others to provide care.
The share of people who reported moving in 2021 was unchanged from 2020. Nine percent of adults said they moved to their home in 2021. The majority of individuals who moved remained in the same state. Just over one in four adults who moved—2 percent of all adults—crossed state lines in 2021.
Moving was generally associated with an increasing distance from family, friends, and other informal supports. Thirty-two percent of people who moved in 2021 said they moved farther away from family, while 24 percent said they moved closer (figure 29). Forty percent of adults who moved said they moved farther from friends. Another moving pattern that continued in 2021 was employed adults moving farther away from their usual workplace. Thirty-four percent of movers who were employed moved farther away from their usual workplace compared with 27 percent who moved closer.
Homeownership and Mortgages
Nearly two-thirds of adults owned their homes, though young adults, as well as Black and Hispanic adults, were less likely to own. Twenty-nine percent of 18- to 29-year-olds owned their homes, compared with 84 percent of people age 60 and older. Within each age group, there is substantial variation in the homeownership rate by race and ethnicity. For example, 4 in 10 Black adults and nearly 5 in 10 Hispanic adults ages 30 to 44 were homeowners. Among White adults in this age range, nearly 7 in 10 owned their home (table 17).
Table 17. Homeownership rate (by age and race/ethnicity)
Note: Among all adults.
Many homeowners took advantage of the continued low interest rates in 2021 to refinance their mortgages. Nearly one-fourth of all homeowners with a mortgage refinanced their mortgage within the prior year. Higher-income homeowners were the predominant group who opted to refinance (figure 30).43 Nearly 3 in 10 mortgage holders with income of at least $100,000 per year refinanced within the prior 12 months, compared with 23 percent of those with income between $50,000 and $99,999 and 16 percent of those with income under $50,000.
Mortgage holders with a higher mortgage payment were also more likely to have refinanced during the prior year. More than one-third (35 percent) of homeowners with a monthly mortgage payment of $2,000 or more refinanced, compared with 15 percent of homeowners with a monthly payment from $500 to $749 (figure 31).44
Renting and Evictions
More than one in four adults rent their home (27 percent). Benefits of renting include the flexibility to move more easily as well as the convenience of not having to manage repairs. But renting can also lead to less-stable living arrangements and less control over living spaces and repairs. Many renters do not own their home because of financial circumstances. (See box 3 for a discussion of renters who fell behind on rent during the pandemic.)
Adults with lower income, and those who are Black and Hispanic, are more likely to rent their homes. Forty-five percent of adults with a family income of less than $25,000 rent, compared with 10 percent of adults with family income of $100,000 or more (table 18). Forty-four percent of Black adults and 37 percent of Hispanic adults rent, compared with 21 percent of White adults and 23 percent of Asian adults.
Table 18. Share who rent (by demographic characteristics)
|Less than $25,000
|$100,000 or more
|Low or moderate income
|Middle or upper income
Note: Among all adults.
Housing tenure varies by other demographic characteristics, including disability status and neighborhood income. Adults with a disability had a greater likelihood of being renters than adults with no disability. Forty-four percent of adults who live in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods rent. This is over twice the rate among adults who live in middle- and upper-income neighborhoods.
Renters with lower family income were frequently cost burdened, meaning that they spent more than 30 percent of their income on rent payments.45 About half of renters with income between $25,000 and $49,999 had rent payments that exceeded 30 percent of their income.
Reflecting the flexibility that comes with renting, most people who moved were renters. Almost three-fourths of people who moved in the prior year did not own their home before the move. In general, these moves were to another rental, rather than a home purchase—just 26 percent of those who did not own their previous house and moved in the past year did so for a home that they purchased.
Some of these moves, however, resulted from an eviction. Slightly fewer than 1 percent of adults, which is about 1.8 million people, said they moved in the prior year because of an eviction or the threat of an eviction.46 This represents approximately 8 percent of all people who moved during this period.
Box 3. Pandemic's Effect on Rent Payment
Many renters faced challenges paying their rent before the pandemic, but in the fall of 2021, after nearly two years of economic disruptions from the pandemic, a higher share of renters reported they had been behind on their rent in the prior 12 months. Moreover, many still owed back rent despite a variety of government supports including unemployment benefits, stimulus checks, and rental assistance.
More renters were behind on rent in 2021 than before the pandemic. When asked about their rent payments before the pandemic, 10 percent of renters reported they had missed a payment at some point in 2019.1 In the fall of 2021, a higher 17 percent of renters reported they had been behind on their rent in the prior 12 months.
The pandemic increased the share of renters who were behind on rent for most racial and ethnic groups. When compared with pre-pandemic levels, White, Black, and Hispanic renters all saw increases in the share behind on rent sometime in the prior 12 months (figure A).
Black renters and Hispanic renters were more likely to be behind on rent payments, compared with other renters. This disparity was present in 2019 and persisted through the pandemic. In 2021, over one in five Black renters and Hispanic renters said they had been behind on rent in the prior year.
Layoffs during the pandemic likely contributed to difficulty paying rent. Among renters who were laid off in the prior 12 months, 38 percent were behind on rent, compared with 15 percent of renters who were not laid off. Differences in layoffs by race and ethnicity may contribute to differences in being behind on rent since layoffs were more common for Black and Hispanic renters than other renters in 2020 and 2021.
Low-income renters were also hit particularly hard by the pandemic recession. The share of adult renters with income below $50,000 reporting being behind on rent increased from 12 percent in 2019 to 23 percent in 2021. For renters with income of $50,000 or more, a smaller 6 percent reported in the fall of 2021 that they had been behind on rent in the prior 12 months—similar to the 5 percent who said they were behind in 2019.
Many renters who fell behind during the year still carried rental debt as of late 2021. Forty-five percent of renters who were behind on their rent at some point in 2021 said that they still owed money for back rent or fees at the time of the survey. This represents 8 percent of renters (2 percent of adults) who still owed back rent or fees in late 2021. For this group of renters, the mean amount still owed was $2,064 and the median was $1,200. This mean amount of back rent suggests total estimated back rent for all renters as of late 2021 was between $9.3 and $10.9 billion.2 These estimates are lower than October 2021 estimates from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia ($16.8 billion) and Moody's Analytics and the Urban Institute ($16.7 billion).3
1. This question was asked of renters in 2021 about their rent payments in 2019. It was not asked on the 2019 survey. Return to text
2. These estimates are for adults who are renters. Because respondents who were married could have given the amount of back rent for their household, or just their individual share, the lower estimate divides the amount of back rent in half for married couples to account for married respondents who may have answered for their household rather than for just themselves. Return to text
3. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia's estimate comes from a model simulating job loss and calculates total back rent for renters who experienced a job loss during the pandemic (Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Household Rental Debt during COVID-19: Update for August 2021 (Philadelphia: FRB Philadelphia, July 2021), https://www.philadelphiafed.org/-/media/frbp/assets/community-development/briefs/updatedhouseholdrentdebt-final.pdf ). Moody's Analytics and Urban Institute's estimate comes from Moody's baseline economic forecast and calculates back rent for all renters, including those without a job loss during the pandemic (Jim Parrott and Mark Zandi, "The Race to Save Millions from Eviction," Urban Institute, September 2021, https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/104762/the-race-to-save-millions-from-eviction.pdf). In contrast, the SHED estimates rely on survey questions that ask directly about the amount of back rent owed. Return to text
42. Among adults ages 22 to 24, the majority of those living with a spouse or partner are not married, and a smaller share are married. For the older age groups, the majority of adults living with a spouse or partner are married. Return to text
43. This fact holds when considering individuals who refinanced in 2020 as well. Among those who have refinanced in the past two years, high-income (those with an income of $100,000 or more) homeowners with a mortgage were about twice as likely to have refinanced as those with an income of less than $50,000. Return to text
44. While families with more income have higher mortgage payments on average, the increased prevalence of refinancing among those with higher mortgage payments holds even when controlling for income. In part, this may reflect that the potential savings from refinancing are greater for those with larger loans. Return to text
45. Cost burdened is defined using the midpoint of both the monthly rent payment range and the family income range and comparing the ratio to the 30 percent threshold. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has established this "cost burdened" threshold of 30 percent. For details, see U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, "Rental Burdens: Rethinking Affordability Measures," https://www.huduser.gov/portal/pdredge/pdr_edge_featd_article_092214.html. Return to text
46. In this report, people who experienced an eviction or the threat of eviction include those who reported they were evicted or received an eviction notice; had a landlord tell them or a person they were staying with to leave; missed a rent payment and thought they would be evicted; or were living in a property that was condemned by the city, forcing them to leave. Return to text
* The Federal Reserve revised this report on February 2, 2023. The title of figure 29 was corrected from “Distance to friends, families, and workplaces in 2020” to “Distance to friends, families, and workplaces after moves” and the bar lengths were adjusted to match the figure values.