Racial Homeownership Gap Narrower in Oregon, National Study Finds

Oregonians of color were more likely to own a home than the national average, but Oregon’s state economist says the findings aren’t as good as they sound.

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The racial gap in homeownership in Oregon is very real but noticeably less than the gap in the country overall, according to a February 21 study released by construction consultancy Construction Coverage.

The disparity between white and nonwhite homeowners in Oregon was the sixth smallest in the nation, beating Colorado, Washington and California. In 2021 minority-homeownership rates in the United States exceeded 50% for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis. In Oregon 67.3% of whites were homeowners, compared to 52.3% of Oregonians of color. The 15% gap in homeownership was 7.3% lower than the national gap of 22.3%.

The study found minority-homeownership rates in Oregon to be relatively consistent with national trends — the rate of minority homeownership was 52.3% in Oregon compared to 51.1% nationally — but the gap has closed significantly from lower rates of white homeownership, which were 6.1% lower than the national average (67.3% in Oregon compared with 73.4% nationally).

The racial homeownership gap dropped further in the Portland/Vancouver/Hillsboro area, to 13.9%.

State economist Josh Lehner says the numbers, when broken down, don’t tell a particularly positive story. He says the data represent a Simpson’s Paradox, in which groups of data show one trend, but the trend is reversed when the groups are added together. Lehner says understanding and identifying this paradox is important for correctly interpreting data. Oregon’s African American population, which has been historically underprivileged though policies like redlining, is relatively small compared to the country overall. Lehner says that when state data is broken down, it is the racial and ethnic composition of Oregonians of color that is driving the overall numbers.

“If we look at homeownership rate by individual race and ethnicity, instead of grouped together as BIPOC, you will see Oregonian homeownership rates are lower,” Lehner tells Oregon Business over email.

“There are relatively few Black Oregonians, and Black Americans have the lowest homeownership rate. Oregon has relatively larger Asian and ‘Other’ populations compared to the nation, and homeownership rates are comparatively higher for these populations.”

Black and Hispanic Oregonians had slightly lower homeownership rates than the national average, by 3.3% and 2.7%, respectively.

Only one state in the study, Hawaii, had a negative racial-homeownership gap.

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