Buying a home is an achievement many consider an essential part of the American Dream. And a new study by Stanford University’s Department of Political Science suggests that homeownership boosts civic engagement; homeowners participate in local and national elections significantly more, on average, than Americans who don’t own homes. This, in turn, influences local housing regulations.
Specifically, “homevoters” tend to turn out more—nearly twice as many—when zoning issues are on the ballot in federal and local elections. Residents with strong home-value growth typically oppose new housing development, pay closer attention to local elections, and participate more frequently than do non-homeowners, according to the research. In fact, the study shows that more-expensive homes correlate with greater political turnout by homeowners in local elections.
The research was conducted to learn more about the intersection of rising NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard)-leaning homeowner efforts, how asset investment affects participatory community action, and the study of political economy. Along with clarifying the political advantage homeowners gain and then maintain, the study concludes that government policies encouraging homeownership among Americans “may have unanticipated downstream political consequences,” including changing the political behavior and preferences of those individuals, as some individuals’ political party preferences were shown to change depending on their homeownership status and on the financing used to secure their home purchase.
The result, according to the report’s authors, is a double-edged sword, where the government’s encouragement of political participation is viewed positively, while the use of homeownership as the mechanism could potentially deepen economic and political inequality.
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