Study finds home ownership does not lead to happiness

Here's a stunning conclusion from a recently completed study by Grace. W. Bucchianeri of the Wharton School of Business: "The results show that after controlling for household income, housing quality, and health, homeowners are no happier than renters by any of the following definitions: life satisfaction, overall mood, overall feeling, general moment-to-moment emotions (i.e. affect) and affect at home, but instead derive more pain from their house and home."

Wow. So I'm not alone in feeling burdened by home ownership. The results of this study not only contradict the American dream of home ownership, they also call into question the value of the many government incentives that make it possible.

For her study, Bucchianeri used data sets for 600 women living in single-family houses in Columbus, Ohio (a city demographically representative of the country) in 2005. While homeowners reported higher general levels of satisfaction than renters, the study found that other factors such as household income and health, accounted for the difference.

After factoring out other circumstances that could influence happiness, the remaining data indicated that homeowners' joy is actually diminished by the ownership. To my surprise, the author found that the stress of financial insecurity that comes with home ownership did not account for this difference.

The study, titled The American Dream or The American Delusion?, looked a several other possible causal factors. It found

  • No link between home ownership, self-esteem, and the perception of control.
  • No difference in stress level between homeowners and renters.
  • Homeowners derived less joy from their health. The average homeowner weighed 12 pounds more than their counterpart did.
  • Renters and homeowners spent roughly the same percentage of time on housework, but the homeowner spent less time on active leisure pursuits.
  • Homeowners spent 4-6% less time interacting with friends and neighbors, and experienced more negative experiences from it.
  • Family time and enjoyment was equal between the two groups.

There is a great deal more information contained in Bucchianeri's study, which I recommend to you.

What I took from it was that much of the joy in our lives comes from interacting with others and taking part in leisure pursuits, and owning a home seems to diminish the time one spends at these. I need to get out of the house more, because I'd sure like to feel more joy.
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