Reassessing the Citizen Virtues of Homeownership
Stephanie M. Stern
Chicago-Kent College of Law
April 8, 2011
Columbia Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 2, p. 101, 2011
The assumption that homeownership creates more politically and civically engaged citizens who contribute to local communities (as well as national democracy) dominates property law. This belief underlies influential theories of property and land use and justifies housing policies promoting homeownership and expanding homeownership’s reach. This Essay challenges the “citizenship virtues” of homeownership and contends that the evidence reveals a far more modest, and particularized, picture of citizenship effects than commonly assumed. I explore psychological, historical, and economic factors that may underlie the variable citizenship effects from homeownership. Some of these factors elucidate not only why owners and tenants perform similarly in certain citizenship measures but, by the same token, why it is not universally true that fear of increased rents constrains local contribution by tenants. I consider the implications of this analysis for legal theory and note potential applications to housing policy.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 51
Keywords: Homeownership, Citizenship, Homeowner, Externalities, Local Behavior, Social Benefits, Subsidy, Alternatives to Homeownership
JEL Classification: K10
Date posted: April 11, 2011
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