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2017 Data Show Homeowners Nearly 89 Times Wealthier Than Renters

Donald Hays and Briana Sullivan

Wealth inequality between homeowners and renters continued to be remarkably pronounced in 2017: Homeowners’ median wealth was nearly 89 times larger than the median wealth of renters and not entirely because of home equity.

The 2017 Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data shows continued disparities in wealth – the value of assets owned minus the liabilities (debts) owed – revealed in last year’s report on household wealth in 2015.

Just two assets — home equity and retirement accounts — accounted for 61.7% of households’ wealth in 2017.

The U.S. Census Bureau report and detailed tables on household wealth in 2017 show wide variations across demographic and socio-economic groups.

The SIPP’s sample size enables comparisons of the assets of many populations and groups, such as low-income households and households with or without children.

Household Wealth Highlights in 2017 Dollars

  • Biggest contributors. Just two assets — home equity and retirement accounts — accounted for 61.7% of households’ wealth in 2017.
  • The median value of home owners’ wealth in their homes was $118,000, and the median household retirement account balance was $65,000.
  • While many households owned these assets, others did not: 38.2% of households did not own a home and 42.7% of households did not have a retirement account. This gap of ownership in two key assets contributes to wealth inequality.

  • Bank accounts. Some commonly held assets made up a small portion of household wealth. In 2017, 93.7% of households had bank or credit union accounts. However, the accounts made up only 8.9% of total household wealth.
  • Home Ownership. Home equity did not fully account for the difference in median wealth between homeowners and renters. Households that owned their home had a median wealth of $269,100, substantially more than that of those who rented their homes ($3,036). 
  • Even when home equity was excluded from total wealth, the median wealth of homeowners was $109,000, a staggering 35.9 times more than the median wealth of renters.
  • Health insurance. Households with people who did not have health insurance all or part of the year had dramatically lower median wealth ($18,750) than households in which all members had coverage for the full year ($140,500).
  • Those without insurance also had 50% less in their checking accounts and 74% less in their retirement accounts.
  • Marital status, age and gender. Unmarried female householders (those who own or rent the home) of any age had a median wealth of $28,290. That represented 75.9% of their unmarried male counterparts’ median wealth of $37,290 and only 12.1% of their married counterparts’ median wealth of $233,100.
  • Such disparities between genders and marital status persisted over most age groups.
  • Race and Hispanic origin. Relative to Black and Hispanic householders, non-Hispanic White and Asian householders had higher median household wealth.
  • Non-Hispanic White householders had a median household wealth of $171,700, compared with $9,567 for Black householders and $25,000 for Hispanic householders.
  • Asian householders had a median household wealth of $157,400, which was not statistically different from the estimate for non-Hispanic White householders.
  • Education. Higher education was linked to higher median household wealth.
  • Households in which the most educated member held a bachelor’s degree had a median wealth of $198,000, compared with $34,460 for households in which the most educated member only had a high school diploma.
  • Those with graduate or professional degrees had just over twice the median wealth ($396,900) of bachelor degree holders.
  • Employment. Households in which at least one member was unemployed or worked part-time during the year had less wealth.
  • Households in which at least one person had a full-time job for the entire year had a median wealth of $114,200, compared with $81,150 for households in which one or more members had a part-time job during the year, and $19,490 for households in which one or more people were unemployed.


Briana Sullivan is an economist and Donald Hays is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.



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