Panel: Homeownership and Residential Mobility Among Older Adults
(Housing, Community Development, and Urban Policy)

Thursday, November 7, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
I.M Pei Tower: 2nd Floor, Tower Court C (Sheraton Denver Downtown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizer:  Sarah L. Mawhorter, University of Southern California; Syracuse University
Panel Chair:  Sheida Isabel Elmi, Aspen Institute
Discussants:  Stephanie Moulton, The Ohio State University and Carolina Reid, University of California, Berkeley

As the population of the United States ages, older adults represent a growing share of homeowners and renters. In 2015, seniors aged 65 and older made up 30 percent of homeowners and 14 percent of renters in the US. By one estimate, seniors are projected to expand to 40 percent of homeowners and 21 percent of renters by 2035 (Spader, McCue, and Herbert 2016). Going forward, older adults’ housing choices—to age in place, to downsize, to move to a different neighborhood or region—will have major impacts on US housing markets, beyond the consequences for their own finances, health, and well-being. In this panel, the authors investigate the many factors that influence the housing decisions of older adults, and the wider ramifications of their choices. The papers explore how financial resources, family relationships, and housing market conditions affect residential mobility and tenure decisions.

The first two papers focus on the individual-, household-, and family-level determinants of residential mobility among older adults. In “Health, Financial Precarity, and Residential Mobility Among Older Adults,” Zhu and Painter examine how physical disability, cognitive declines, and household finances are related to residential mobility and tenure transitions. Begley and Chan extend the research on child proximity and older adult moves in  “Understanding Older Adult Mobility Decisions: The Role of Children.” After measuring the residential mobility patterns of older adults in relation to their adult children, Begley and Chan analyze the resulting changes in the types of housing and neighborhoods where older adults live, and consider the effects of these choices on older adults’ lives.

The second two papers assess how both household finances and housing market conditions affect older adult homeownership and residential mobility. In “Defined Benefit Pensions and Homeownership in the Post-Great Recession Era,” Murray finds that in the wake of the Great Recession, older adult households without a steady, guaranteed source of retirement income were more likely to forego homeownership, extracting equity from their homes. In “Housing Affordability and Residential Moves in Later Life,” Mawhorter and Ailshire study older adults’ inter-regional migration in the context of the divergence in housing prices between prosperous and declining regions. They find that older adults are increasingly moving away from high-cost regions towards mid-cost and low-cost regions. This shift is especially strong for renters, which exacerbates spatial inequalities between renters and homeowners.

The papers in this panel contribute valuable insights about the future direction of US housing markets as both homeowners and renters age. The discussion will raise questions about the role of homeownership in providing financial security in old age, and at the same time perpetuating economic inequalities. Taken together, these papers serve to inform policies related to homeownership and housing finance institutions, as well as targeted programs to support older adults, whether aging in place or moving.

Health, Financial Precarity, and Residential Mobility Among Older Adults
Linna Zhu and Gary Painter, University of Southern California

Understanding Older Adult Mobility Decisions: The Role of Children
Jaclene Begley, Fannie Mae and Sewin Chan, New York University

Housing Affordability and Residential Moves in Later Life
Sarah L. Mawhorter1,2 and Jennifer Ailshire1, (1)University of Southern California, (2)Syracuse University