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Homeownership can be understood as a form of asset building that increases the financial sustainability of a household and decreases its likelihood of falling into poverty (1). While assets are not taken into account when determining poverty status, they can provide financial stability that can prevent unexpected expenses from causing life disruptions. As a result, homeownership rates can inform discussions around poverty, but require some important considerations:
  • Homeownership rates do not consider other important types of assets, such as savings, making it only a partial measure of asset accumulation.
  • While homeownership can decrease the risk of poverty, poverty and financial strain can lead families to sell or lose their homes, and when poverty rates and homeownership rates change at the same time, it is difficult to determine which change might have caused the other.
  • Differences between renters and owners may not be caused by ownership, but other demographic differences.
All calculations in this section are made at the household level, but the Census poverty data is calculated for families of related people living together, and in some cases, there are multiple families in one housing unit or household.  This analysis considers households to be in poverty if they contain any families in poverty. 

Important Links

Data 101
Data Glossary
About this Study
Executive Summary
Key Findings

Core Concepts

This section examines homeownership as a partial measure of asset building. 
  • Homeownership rates in Forsyth County have fallen in the past 7 years.  This could be related to the increases in poverty seen during this time period.  However, Forsyth County homeownership rates are currently higher than in the majority of peer communities, suggesting that they may not explain Forsyth County’s relatively high poverty rate.  
  • Low homeownership rates are often found in areas with high poverty rates, and lack of asset building in these communities could be an obstacle to lowering poverty rates. 
  • Renters are more likely to live in poverty in Forsyth County than in the peer communities, suggesting that differences in poverty between these communities may be due more to the characteristics of renters than homeowners. 
  • There are racial disparities in homeownership rates and in the poverty rates of renters and homeowners.  The resulting disparities in financial stability could reinforce racial disparities in poverty rates in the future.  

Exploring Homeownership Rates

The following charts measure the percent of households that rent and own their home. There is strong evidence suggesting that homeownership can place residents at lower risk of poverty in the future (1), but differences between renters and owners may be caused by demographic differences other than homeownership.
Figure 1: Homeownership Rates by Geography, 2014
Figure 1 shows that homeownership rates in Forsyth County are higher than in the majority of its peer communities. This suggests that the higher poverty rates in Forsyth County may not be caused by a lack of assets.
Bars of a lighter color indicate no statistical difference compared to Forsyth County.

Figure 2: Homeownership Rates in Forsyth County, 2006-2014
Figure 2 demonstrates that homeownership rates have declined in Forsyth County since 2008.
  • The greatest changes occurred between 2011 and 2012, when poverty rates were rising the fastest.
  • Increased financial stress in this time could have caused this drop through home sales and foreclosures, and the costs and life disruptions of losing a house could have increased financial stress.

Figure 3: Homeownership Rates in Forsyth County by Census Tract, 2010-2014
As Figure 3 demonstrates, the lowest rates of homeownership are found around Highway 52 and I-40 Business, roughly corresponding to the locations of census tracts with high poverty. Residents in these areas may have limited assets, which could make escaping poverty more difficult than for residents in other areas.
Figure 4: Poverty Rates Among Homeowners and Renters by Geography, 2014
Figure 4 shows that renters in Forsyth County are more likely to live in poverty than in the majority of its peer communities.
  • There is no significant difference in the poverty rates of homeowners, suggesting that the differences in poverty rates compared to peer communities are more likely to be due to difference in characteristics in the renting population than in homeowners.
  • The poverty rate of renters in Forsyth County is over 4 times as high as the poverty rate of homeowners.
Bars of a lighter color indicate no statistical difference compared to Forsyth County. 
There was no data available for Roanoke (munc.); it was omitted from this visualization.

Racial Disparities in Homeownership

Racial disparities in homeownership could reinforce disparities in poverty rates.
Figure 5: Homeownership Rates by Race/Ethnicity in Forsyth County, 2014
As Figure 5 shows, White, non-Hispanic residents are more likely to own their homes than other races/ethnicities.
  • This likely reflects racial disparities in overall wealth, which are typically larger than racial disparities in income (1). 
  • This disparity in assets could place minority groups at increased risk of poverty in the future, further reinforcing racial disparities in poverty.

Figure 6: Poverty Rates Among Homeowners and Renters in Forsyth County by Race/Ethnicity, 2014
As Figure 6 demonstrates, the relationship between homeownership and poverty varies by race/ethnicity.
  • Renters have higher poverty rates than homeowners regardless of race/ethnicity.
  • African American renters are about five times as likely to be in poverty than African American homeowners.  This difference between homeowners and renters is greater than for other ethnic groups.
  • African American homeowners have similar poverty rates to White, non-Hispanic homeowners.
  • White, non-Hispanic renters are less likely to live in poverty than renters of any other race/ethnicity.  But, they are about three times as likely to be in poverty than White, non-Hispanic homeowners.
  • Hispanic/Latino homeowners are far more likely to live in poverty than other homeowners, suggesting that homeownership may not be associated with financial stability in this community in the same way that it is in others.

Christopher Webb, MPP
Christopher is a Data and Research Analyst with Forsyth Futures.  He performs statistical analysis and programming to support work on community issues in Forsyth County. 
He holds a Master's degree in Public Policy from American University and a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Business.
If you have questions or comments about the data presented in this section, please contact Christopher at Christopher@ForsythFutures.org or by phone at 336.701.1700 ext. 108.


Literature References

  1. Cramer, R. & Shanks, T. (2014). The assets perspective: The rise of asset building and its impact on social policy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Tabular References

Figures 1-2: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015).  Tenure: Table B25003 [Data Files from ACS 1-year estimates for the year 2014]. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_B25003&prodType=table
Figures 3: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015).  Tenure: Table B25003 [Data Files from ACS 5-year estimates for the years 2010-2014]. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_5YR_B25003&prodType=table 
Figures 4,6: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015). 2014 ACS 1-year Public Use Microdata Sample. [Data Files].  Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/data/pums.html
Figure 5a: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015).  Tenure (Black or African American Alone): [Table B25003B] [Data Files from ACS 1-year estimates for the year 2014]. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_B25003B&prodType=table
Figure 5b: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015).  Tenure (Hispanic or Latino) : [Table B25003I] [Data Files from ACS 1-year estimates for the year 2014]. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_B25003I&prodType=table
Figure 5c: U.S. Department of Commerce. (2015).  Tenure (White, Not Hispanic): [Table B25003H] [Data Files from ACS 1-year estimates for the year 2014]. Retrieved from https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?pid=ACS_14_1YR_B25003H&prodType=table