The Gender Gap in Housing Returns
72 Pages Posted: 30 Mar 2020 Last revised: 15 Jan 2022
Date Written: March 2020
Housing wealth represents the dominant form of savings for American households. Using detailed data on housing transactions across the United States since 1991, we find that single men earn 1.5 percentage points higher unlevered returns per year on housing relative to single women. The gender gap grows significantly larger after accounting for mortgage borrowing: men earn 7.9 percentage points higher levered returns per year relative to women. Approximately 45% of the gap in housing returns can be explained by gender differences in the location and timing of transactions. The remaining gap arises primarily from gender differences in execution prices: data on repeat sales reveal that women buy the same property for approximately 2% more and sell for 2% less. Women experience worse execution prices because of differences in the choice of initial list price and negotiated discount relative to the list price. Gender differences in upgrade and maintenance rates, and preferences for housing characteristics and listing agents appear to be less important factors. Overall, the gender gap in housing returns is economically large and can explain 30% of the gender gap in wealth accumulation at retirement.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation