The State of Housing in America

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Unaffordable and crowded housing conditions have powerful negative effects on public health. Strained finances, frequent moves, overcrowding, and the fear of eviction and homelessness can cause emotional distress and even contribute to mental disorders (pdf). For these reasons, housing is cited as one of the social determinants of health by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and many other health organizations. 

Using data from the American Community Survey's 5-year estimates, we created indicators for the affordability and crowdedness of local housing markets throughout the United States. All data is from the 5-year period 2012-2016.

 

Housing Affordability: Monthly Housing Costs as a Percentage of Household Income

The map below shows the median housing cost in each state as a percentage of its median household income. (Note: we divided the household income value, which is reported as an annual value, by 12 so it is consistent with the monthly housing cost value.)  

To see the component measures (median housing cost and median household income), select them from the filter menu and the map will display accordingly.

Crowdedness: People per Room

Crowdedness, like lack of affordability, can be a major stress point from housing conditions. One common way of quantifying crowdedness is the ratio of people to rooms. Using the number of rooms in a housing unit, rather than the number of housing units, takes into account the size of the dwelling. Here, this ratio is calculated from the reported median number of rooms and the average household size in each state. 

(Use the filter to choose one of the component measures to display on the map, instead of the people-per-room ratio.) 

Trouble Spots for Housing

California and New York, infamous for their skyrocketing housing costs, unsurprisingly have some of the least affordable and most crowded housing in the United States. Alaska and Hawaii—often outliers in economic data—also rank high on both measures.

The state of housing in Texas and Florida, in contrast, may be more surprising. The median housing costs in both states are not high; in fact both are below the national value—$956 per month in Texas and  $1003 in Florida, compared to $1012 per month throughout the United States as a whole. But housing costs are just one side of the issue. The average household size in Texas, 2.84 people, is among the highest in the country, and both states are experiencing high rates of population growth. If neither local incomes or local housing supplies grow to accommodate increased demand, communities in these states could be headed toward the kind of housing crises plaguing California and New York. 

 

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About the Data

The Housing Affordability measure was computed as a ratio of values from two data tables from the American Community Survey's 2012-2016 5-year estimates : B25105 (for median monthly housing costs) and B19019 (for median household income).  

Crowdedness was likewise computed as a ratio from two ACS tables: B25010 (for average household size) and B25018 (for median number of rooms).