Sure, I know they call it a money pit. And the money pit has turned into a financial death sentence for too many Americans. But it’s a veritable truism that owning a house makes you happy. It’s the pinnacle of the American Dream after all. Not so fast. According to this comprehensive study by the Wharton School’s Grace Wong, those who own their own homes are in fact a less happy lot than those that do not. Here are some of the study’s key conclusions.
I find little evidence that homeowners are happier by any of the following definitions: life satisfaction, overall mood, overall feeling, general moment-to-moment emotions (i.e., affect) and affect at home… They are also more likely to be 12 pounds heavier, report lower a lower health status and poorer sleep quality. They tend to spend less time on active leisure or with friends. The average homeowner reports less joy from love and relationships… Contrary to popular belief, I do not find significant differences in family-related time use patterns, family-related affect, number of normal work hours, indicators of stress or measures of self-esteem and perceived control of life by homeownership …
Homeowners are happier on average only on an unadjusted basis. Once household income, housing quality and health are controlled for, they are no happier than renters. What’s more, they report to derive more pain from both the neighborhood and their house and home. This positive pain gap remains stable and robust when health, neighborhood characteristics and financial stress are controlled for. As for the most frequently cited channels of a positive impact by homeownership, namely self-esteem, stress, health and family life, again there is very little supporting evidence in my data… [H]omeowners spend less time on active leisure activities or with friends, which have been documented as some of the most enjoyable affective experiences.
We can only hope policy-makers take this into account when think about what to do on the housing front.