Academic journal article Cityscape

Are Homeowners Better Neighbors during Housing Booms? Understanding Civic and Social Engagement by Tenure during the Housing Market Cycle

Academic journal article Cityscape

Are Homeowners Better Neighbors during Housing Booms? Understanding Civic and Social Engagement by Tenure during the Housing Market Cycle

Article excerpt

Introduction

The United States is emerging from a decade of housing market flux in which most major regions underwent three distinct periods-expansion, recession, and recovery-in residential investment from the mid-2000s through the early 2010s. Increasing housing production and demand defined the expansion period. Falling housing production and demand, and increasing foreclosures and vacancies, characterized the recession period. Declining foreclosures and vacancies and changing property ownership and tenure composition, largely through the disposition of foreclosures, punctuated the recovery period.

These stages offer an opportunity to deepen our understanding of how housing market cycles affect the social benefits of homeownership (Lindblad, Manturuk, and Quercia, 2013; Rohe and Lindblad, 2013). A common rationale for subsidizing homeownership is that it builds strong communities due to homeowners' greater civic and social engagement. Because homeowners are eager to increase their property values and are less transient, they may be more likely than renters to become involved in local affairs and to get to know their neighbors. Existing research largely confirms these suppositions (Blum and Kingston, 1984; Cox, 1982; DiPasquale and Glaeser, 1999; Lindblad, Manturuk, and Quercia, 2013; Lyons and Lowery, 1989; Manturuk, Lindblad, and Quercia, 2010, 2012; McCabe, 2013; Rohe and Basolo, 1997; Rohe and Lindblad, 2013; Rohe and Stegman, 1994; Rohe, Van Zandt, and McCarthy, 2001; Rossi and Weber, 1996; Shlay, 2006). However, these studies overlook the role that changing economic conditions during the housing market cycle may play in these outcomes. It is unknown whether differences between homeowners' and renters' civic and social engagement narrow or widen during the housing market cycle, particularly during recessions when homeowners may experience declines in their property values (Rohe and Lindblad, 2013).

This research helps to fill this gap by using pooled data on civic and social engagement in U.S. metropolitan areas from the 2003 to 2013 American Time Use Surveys (ATUS). We use a two-stage Cragg hurdle analysis to test whether homeowners have greater civic and social engagement than renters across the housing market cycle and then specifically during expansion periods, when property values are rising or stable, during recessions, when property values are falling, and during recovery periods, when the market returns to equilibrium. Examining this question sheds light on whether a social justification exists for countercyclical or even procyclical policies to intervene in the housing market to promote homeownership. Might policies to shore up housing markets in times of distress help to maintain and enhance community social fabric?

In what follows, we first discuss the reasons why homeowners may have greater civic and social engagement than renters and synthesize the findings of existing research testing these claims. Then we discuss theory on how changing economic conditions during the housing market cycle may alter homeowners' engagement relative to renters. This discussion is followed by a description of the data and methodology and then a summary of the results. We conclude by highlighting key takeaways from the study and implications for further research and policymaking.

The Link Between Tenure and Civic and Social Engagement

The social benefits of homeownership have long been the focus of debate (Dietz and Haurin, 2003; Rohe and Lindblad, 2013; Rohe, Van Zandt, and McCarthy, 2001; Rossi and Weber, 1996; Shlay, 2006). One key purported social benefit of homeownership is heightened civic and social engagement, which together may lead to stronger communities that are better able to make improvements and respond to threats.

Civic Engagement

We define civic engagement as formal, goal-oriented participation in neighborhood, charitable, church, or government organizations or processes, such as helping out at a church soup kitchen or attending a public meeting on a development proposal. …

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