Why are Fewer Single Women Buying Homes?

by Peter Thomas Ricci

Why has homebuying among single female consumers declined in recent years?


During the mid and late stages of the housing boom, one of the more commonly reported success stories was that of the single female homebuyer. As tracked by the National Association of Realtors, from 2003 to 2010, single women comprised a 20 percent average of all homebuyers, a share that was not only far above the 15 percent of 2001, but often double the market share of single male buyers.

Starting in 2011, however, things changed considerably. While single men continued to comprise 9 percent of all buyers, single women saw their share steadily decline, falling from 18 percent in 2011 to 15 percent in 2015; additionally, the market share for married couples – which had declined 10 percentage points from 2001 to 2010  – reversed course, rising from 58 percent in 2010 to 67 percent last year.

Here’s a graph showing the trends:

Single Women Living at Home

While single female homebuyers have fallen in prominence, a complementary trend has emerged – increasing numbers of young women are living at home.

According to recent analysis from Pew Research, 36.4 percent of women aged 18 to 34 resided with family in 2014, a larger share than at any time since the 1940s, when 36.2 percent of women had such living accommodations.

One major reason for that reversal, Pew concluded, was the rising age of married women. In 1940, 62 percent of young women were married, but by 2013, that share had dropped by more than half to 30 percent; in 1940, the typical woman began her first marriage at age 21.5, but now, the typical age is 27.

Below, we’ve charted the 74-year trend of men and women living at home:

Economic Stagnation

Marriage rates cannot solely explain the rising rate of young Americans living at home. As Pew pointed out, economic trends must also be considered.

Beginning in the 1970s, the median income for female workers rose. From 1974 to 2007, female median income climbed 76.33 percent, jumping from $13,548 to $23,889. However, since 2007, it has fallen along with the incomes of most Americans, dropping by 6.9 percent to $22,240. And given that the majority of college graduates are now women, it stands to reason that young women are affected by the ongoing student debt crisis, which has both delayed homeownership and, according to the Federal Reserve, led to a pronounced increase in the share of Millennials living at home.

For a more robust look at single female homebuyers’ situation, we weighted three economic indicators – female median income, the single female share of homebuyers and the share of young women living at home – and charted them along a 13-year period. As the graph shows, homeownership has roughly trended with incomes: the share of young women living at home has risen while economic prosperity has declined.

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