Study Finds Connection Between Homeownership, Mobility and Civic Engagement

There’s a tendency among local policymakers and activists to cast homeowners as the ideal residents of any neighborhood. The thinking goes that people with firm roots in a community will care enough to invest more time and effort into keeping that community livable. They will attend planning meetings, vote in local elections and lobby politicians. On the other hand, renters — usually younger, transient and prone to skip out after a few months or years — are viewed as more apathetic to the plight of their surroundings, since they will likely move on in due time anyhow. And an under-involved population implies a less-than-vibrant civic culture. Does homeownership really encourage civic engagement? A study in next month’s issue of the Urban Affairs Review tackles the question. Looking at data collected from a group low- and mid-income homeowners and renters over four years, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill find that owning a home can indeed inspire someone to get involved with the community — so long as the ownership is sustained.

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