Public Release: 

Household wealth increased in 2001, thanks to home values

University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR---While household income declined in 2001, household wealth increased, according to a study by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR), the world's largest academic survey and research organization.

The study analyzed 2001 data on household wealth, including real estate, stocks, IRAs and vehicles, in a nationally representative sample of 6,241 U.S. families, compared to 1999.

Overall, the analysis showed that average household net worth increased from $206,000 in 1999 to $226,200 in 2001. Although the net worth of households headed by both Blacks and whites increased, a large gap remained. The 2001 average net worth of Black families was $47,700 compared to $266,500 for white families.

"While wealth growth in the form of stocks and IRA holdings had stalled out before the close of last year, home ownership rates rose from 67 percent of families in 1999 to 72 percent in 2001," said economist Frank Stafford, who directs the ISR Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the source of data for the analysis.

During that same period, average net equity of those who owned homes rose from $81,400 to $91,700, according to Stafford, who noted that all figures cited are in 1999 dollars. The analysis was funded by the National Institute on Aging.

Despite rising home values during the period, the analysis found some slide in the mean value for home equity among Black families, from $43,300 in 1999 to $40,500 in 2001. "Rising home ownership rates may have different implications for low-income families and families with higher loan-to-equity ratios," Stafford said. "If home prices continue to appreciate, Black families may realize prospective wealth gains. But the economic recession and weaker labor market might make it more difficult for them to afford mortgage payments and increase the risk of personal bankruptcies and foreclosures."

Stafford and ISR colleague Elena Gouskova also found that among households with short-term debt, including unpaid balances on credit cards, student loans and medical or legal bills, average debt rose from $11,500 in 1999 to $12,300 per family in 2001. "As we headed into the recession, some families clearly had short-term debt burdens that are difficult to sustain if economic weakness continues," Stafford said.

Finally, Stafford and Gouskova noted that the biggest gains in wealth from 1999 to 2001 were among households headed by those with a college degree or more. "Those with higher educations showed an average increase in wealth of 15 percent, compared to a gain of 10 percent and 11 percent among those with high school degrees and some college," Stafford said.

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For more information, visit http://www.isr.umich.edu/src/psid/. An executive report and data tables are available at http://www.isr.umich.edu/src/psid/

Established in 1948, the Institute for Social Research (ISR) is among the world's oldest survey research organizations, and a world leader in the development and application of social science methodology. ISR conducts some of the most widely-cited studies in the nation, including the Survey of Consumer Attitudes, the National Election Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, the Columbia County Longitudinal Study and the National Survey of Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and other projects, and the Institute has established formal ties with universities in Poland, China, and South Africa. Visit the ISR Web site at www.isr.umich.edu for more information. ISR is also home to the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), the world's largest computerized social science data archive.

The University of Michigan
News Service
412 Maynard
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1399

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