Throughout history, women have had to push to achieve parity with men in many areas, and housing is no different. Here is an overview of changes and trends in recent history that have helped shape housing and mortgage options for women.
Passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination in housing on the basis of sex, race, religion and a number of other protected classes. Many more women also began to enter the workforce during this decade, encouraged by the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibited wage discrimination on the basis of sex. Women were also able to open their own bank accounts for the first time in the 1960s and would continue to see progress towards equality in the decades to come.
Although women have had varying degrees of property rights and financial freedoms throughout history, it was technically legal for banks to deny loans and credit to single women (or to require permission from their husband for married applicants) until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed in 1974. opened the door for single women to more easily become homeowners, even if they could not pay cash. Coupled with fair housing protections, this legislation also meant that banks could not ask women if they were pregnant or planning to start a family, or assume that women would not return to work after maternity leave.
Average 30-year mortgage rates hit an all-time high in the 1980s, and more Americans preferred to postpone marriage to pursue their education. Although the legislative changes were less sweeping, the cultural changes laid the foundation for the female homeownership trends we see today. In 1981, there were more single women owners (11% of purchases, according to the National Association of Realtors) than single men (10%), and single women have outstripped single men in purchases every year since.
The pay gap has also narrowed considerably during this decade. In 1980, women earned 64% of men’s wages — that share rose to more than 75% 10 years later, according to the Pew Research Center.
Better educational opportunities and higher earning potential have helped the ranks of women landlords grow over time, says Jung Choi, senior research associate at the Urban Institute. In the 1990s, almost a third of households were headed by women.
“It’s a factor that has changed a lot over time,” Choi says. “It’s also consistent with income gains and education gains.”
Mortgage rates fell during the 2000s, particularly after the bursting of the housing bubble. Meanwhile, female homeownership rates have continued to rise, though this may be partly due to more families identifying the female as the head of household when filing taxes, Choi says. .
Women’s homeownership gains are not a straight line up — single women’s homeownership rate was just 15% in 2014, according to NAR. It has since recovered somewhat, and many women own property through marriages, further increasing the rate of female homeownership.
In the years following the Great Recession, women also tended to have lower foreclosure rates whether they were single, divorced, separated, widowed, or married heads of households, according to ATTOM Data Solutions.
In 2021, 19% of homebuyers were single women, and the number of female-headed households, according to an analysis of Urban Institute tax returns, was 60%.
However, women have still not achieved full wage parity in the United States, and often single female borrowers enjoy higher mortgage rates than single males. Paradoxically, women are less likely to default on their mortgages than men, reports the Urban Institute.
“The female-headed single-parent family has the lowest rate of homeownership of any group in the country right now,” Choi says, and for women of color in particular, it’s a major barrier to financial stability. and housing.