Surprising Connections Between Occupation and Home Ownership From 1900 Through 2012
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Members of the armed services are among those least likely to own a home in the United States, according to a new analysis from our research team. We analyzed 112 years of U.S. Federal Census data to better understand the connection between occupation and home ownership across the nation over the last century. As of 2012, optometrists have the clearest line of sight to home ownership at 90%, while dancers and dance instructors have the lowest home ownership rate at just 23%.

Occupation has had a major impact on home ownership rates since 1900. While the typical size of a profession's paycheck is an important factor in the rankings, it's not the only one.  There are many instances of a profession having a higher rate of home ownership than another that typically pays more. Some interesting findings:
  • Public service often pays off in terms of home ownership rates, except if you are in the armed forces. Fire fighters ranked #7 at 84%, and police officers and detectives #12 at 79%, compared to lawyers and judges who ranked #20 at 78%. Teachers were higher than economists (#45 at 74% versus #97, 64%).
  • Janitors and sextons had a rate about double that of waiters and waitresses (54% versus 27%).
  • It turns out that all artists are not starving. Sixty-three percent of artists and art teachers own homes, which is almost twice as high as dancers and dance teachers, which have the lowest rate of home ownership among any profession. Higher rates of home ownership were also seen among musicians and music teachers (62%), entertainers (57%) and authors (63%).
  • Some skilled professions that include many unionized workers had fairly high rates of home ownership, such as electricians at 73%, plumbers at 70% and power station operators at 87%.
  • Sixty-two percent of editors and reporters owned homes in 2012, dropping from 64% in 2010, but 62% is higher than in every other analyzed decade.
Home ownership rates were at just 32% in 1900 and have doubled since then, but nearly all that growth came by 1960. With the stability of the housing market and the economy fluctuating drastically in recent years, occupations with specialized skills and heavy ties to the community fared the best. According to our analysis, top occupations for home ownership in the United States for 2012 are as follows:
  • Optometrists: 90%
  • Toolmakers and Die Makers/Setters: 88%
  • Dentists: 87%
  • Power Station Operators: 87%
  • Forgemen and Hammermen: 84%
  • Inspectors: 84%
  • Firemen: 84%
  • Locomotive Engineers: 84%
  • Airplane Pilots and Navigators: 83%
  • Farmers: 81%
Lower Rates of Home Ownership From a list of nearly 200 occupations, the rate of home ownership in 2012 is as low as 22% for certain job types. While the professions with the very highest rate of home ownership weren't necessarily those with the biggest paychecks, the majority of the professions with the worst rates of home ownership have a mean hourly wage of $20 or less. Job stability and job security also played a large role in how likely those in a given profession were to own a home. As expected, many of the lowest ranking occupations don't require higher education including cleaners, waiters, counter workers and cashiers--and have lower job stability. Though surprising at first, members of the armed forces are less likely to own a home due to ability requirement to live on base, possible deployment or the average age skewing younger. The following are occupations with the lowest rate of home ownership:
  • Dancers and Dance Teachers: 23%
  • Motion Picture Projectionists: 27%
  • Waiters and Waitresses: 27%
  • Counter and Fountain Workers: 28%
  • Members of the Armed Forces: 33%
  • Service Workers (except private households): 34%
  • Bartenders: 35%
  • Charwomen and Cleaners: 35%
  • Cashiers: 36%
  • Cooks (except private households): 36%
Home ownership has been the dream of working men and women in the United States from the nation's founding. No matter whether your ancestor was a toolmaker, grandfather was an optometrists or yourself a dancer, home ownership continues to be part of the American dream.  To learn more about the Ancestry analysis of home ownership and occupation, click here. Or, visit and sign up for a 14-day free trial to learn more about the working men and women in your family. Quotes from Todd Godfrey, Head of Global Content at Ancestry:  Understanding today's workforce in relation to home ownership and the historical context of comparisons in decades past is helpful information for people researching their family history. Having a better understanding of our ancestors' where they lived and what they did to earn a living ? can make it easier to appreciate the issues they may have faced in raising their families and perhaps even identify with some of those same struggles. Firemen, dentists and farmers all play integral roles in their local community, so perhaps the need to root in the communities they serve has played a role in home ownership. Firefighters have a deep love for the community they serve, farmers are tied to the land and optometrists and dentists have spent their careers building a clientele list tied to the community. It could also be a case of raising their families in the same homes they were raised in and their parents before them. * Methodology: Statistics were compiled using Census microdata obtained from at the University of Minnesota Population Center. The microdata are records containing the characteristics of individuals compiled from a representative sample of Census forms. Only heads of households were included in the analysis. Occupations were categorized into 197 categories classified by the U.S. Federal Census Bureau in 1950 and standardized by IPUMS for all other census years. Home ownership is defined as owning or having a mortgage on the residence as opposed to renting it. Occupations with an inadequate sample size in the year reviewed for any given decade were dropped from the analysis for that year. Ancestry continues to partner with the Minnesota Population Center in sharing historical census data and standardization methods to benefit both academic researchers and Ancestry's customers.