Can Homeownership Improve Health Outcomes?

Can Homeownership Improve Health Outcomes?
Roshanak Mehdipanah, Amy J. Schulz, Barbara A. Israel, Graciela Mentz, Alexa Eisenberg, Carmen Stokes, and Zachary Rowe
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
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Access to affordable, stable, and adequate housing is an important determinant of health, but little research examines the association between homeownership and health outcomes. Further, few studies assess the potential racial, ethnic, and class-based inequities among homeowners. This study examines variations in the health-protective effects of homeownership across the Detroit metropolitan area (DMA). Specifically, the study explores the relationship between racial composition, home values, and health outcomes at the neighborhood level across Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties.

Researchers used data on racial composition, homeownership, and housing value from the American Community Survey and data on two health outcomes—disability and all-cause mortality—from the Michigan Department of Community Health. They aggregated data to the census-tract level as a proxy for neighborhoods and conducted regression analyses at the neighborhood level to measure the connection between homeownership and health across geographic areas within the DMA. On average, 31 percent of residents were non-Hispanic Black (hereafter referred to as Black), 68 percent of residents were homeowners, 76 percent of homes were valued at $50,000 or more, 14 percent of people ages 18 to 64 had a disability, and the annual mortality rate was approximately 950 deaths per 100,000 people across census tracks in the study area.

Key findings

  • Neighborhoods with larger Black populations were more likely to have lower rates of homeownership.
  • Neighborhoods with larger Black populations were more likely to have more residents with disabilities and higher rates of mortality.  Higher homeownership rates within these neighborhoods reduced the association between Black residents and mortality.
  • Neighborhood housing values did not affect associations between the proportion of Black residents in a neighborhood and health outcomes. In other words, regardless of housing value, the share of Black residents in a neighborhood was associated with higher rates of disability and mortality.
  • Homeownership in neighborhoods with a greater proportion of housing valued at $50,000 or more was more strongly associated with reduced disability and all-cause mortality than homeownership in neighborhoods with a smaller proportion of homes valued at $50,000 or more.

Policy implication

  • Homeownership is associated with positive health outcomes, but opportunities for these health-protective effects are not equitably distributed within residentially segregated areas like the DMA. In neighborhoods with higher proportions of Black residents and lower home values, fewer opportunities exist for residents to experience the health-protective effects of homeownership. To promote equity in homeownership and health, policies and interventions should implement strategies to recover and preserve housing values in neighborhoods most vulnerable to economic decline.

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