Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. ES 4.1 Housing Problems

01/01/2000

Housing is a major expense for most families; however, spending more than 30 percent of income on housing may compromise the budget for other essential goods and services. A home’s physical condition, its safety, the level of crowding in a household, and the quality of the surrounding neighborhood can all affect children’s well-being.16 This section presents recent trends in both the cost burden and the physical quality of housing for all households with children under age 18 and for renter households with children and very low income.

Cost Burden. The share of all households (containing children) spending more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing increased from 15 percent in 1978 to 28 percent in 1997, while the share spending more than half their income on housing doubled from 6 percent in 1978 to 12 percent in 1997 (see Table ES 4.1). For renter households with children and very low income17 the trend was similar, but housing expenses were a much higher share of income. Between 1978 and 1997, the percentage of renter households (with children and very low income) paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing rose from 59 percent to 74 percent, while the percentage spending more than 50 percent rose from 31 percent to 41 percent.

Physical Problems. During this same period, the percentage of households (containing children) living in housing with moderate to severe physical problems18 declined from 9 percent in 1978 to 7 percent in 1997. For renter households (with children and very low income), the percentage living in housing with moderate to severe physical problems declined from 18 percent in 1978 to 13 percent in 1995, before increasing to 15 percent in 1997.

Differences by Type of Family. Married-couple families with children are the least likely to experience housing with physical problems, followed by households with one or no adult and households with two or more adults who are not married. In 1997, for example, 6 percent of married-couple households with children, 11 percent of households with one or no adult, and 12 percent of households with two or more unmarried adults lived in housing with moderate to severe physical problems (see Figure ES 4.1.A). Similarly, among all households with children, married couples are the least likely to be paying over 30 percent of their income on housing. For example, in 1997, 20 percent of married-couple households paid over 30 percent, compared with 54 percent of households with one or no adult and 34 percent of households with two or more unmarried adults (see Figure ES 4.1.B).

Table ES 4.1 Percentage of households with children under age 18 in the United States having selected housing problems,a all households and very low incomeb renter households: Selected years, 1978-1997​

  1978 1983 1989 1993 1995 1997
All households with children
Number of households(in millions) 32.3 33.6 35.7 35.5 37.3 37.0
Percentage with
Any problems 30 33 33 34 36 36
Moderate or severe physical problems 9 8 9 7 7 7
Crowded housing 9 8 7 6 7 7
Cost burden greater than 30 percent 15 21 24 27 28 28
Cost burden greater than 50 percent 6 11 9 11 12 12
Severe problems 8 12 10 11 12 11
Renter households with children and very low income
Number of households (in millions) 4.2 5.1 5.9 6.7 6.5 6.2
Percentage with
Any problems 79 83 76 75 77 82
Moderate or severe physical problems 18 18 18 14 13 15
Crowded housing 22 18 17 14 17 17
Cost burden greater than 30 percent 59 68 67 67 68 74
Cost burden greater than 50 percent 31 38 36 38 38 41
Severe problems 33 42 33 34 32 28
Rental assistance 23 23 29 28 29 30 

a Housing problems include physical problems, excessive cost burden, and overcrowding . “Crowded” is defined as having more than one person per room. Physical problems include plumbing, heating, electricity, upkeep, and/or condition of apartment hallways. For detailed definitions of “moderate” and “severe” physical problems, see U.S. Bureau of the Census and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (1997), Current Housing Reports H150/95RV, American Housing Survey for the United States in 1995, Washington, D.C., pp. A-13 and A-14. Cost burden is the ratio of housing costs to reported household income.

b Very low income households are those with incomes at or below one-half the median income in a geographic area.

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, tabulations of data from the American Housing Survey for the United States as published in America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 1998. Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, Table ECON3.


Figure ES 4.1.A Percentage of households with children under age 18 in the United States living in housing with moderate to severe physical problems:a 1997

Figure ES 4.1.A Percentage of households with children under age 18 in the United States living in housing with moderate to severe physical problems:a 1997

a Physical problems include plumbing, heating, electricity, upkeep, and/or condition of apartment hallways. For detailed definitions of “moderate” and “severe” physical problems, see U.S. Bureau of the Census and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (1999), Current Housing Reports H150/95RV, American Housing Survey for the United States in 1997, Washington, D.C., p. A-18.

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, unpublished tabulations of data from the American Housing Survey for the United States, 1995.


Figure ES 4.1.B Percentage of households containing children under age 18 and paying over 30 percent of their income on housing: 1997

Figure ES 4.1.B Percentage of households containing children under age 18 and paying over 30 percent of their income on housing: 1997

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, unpublished tabulations of data from the American Housing Survey for the United States, 1995.


16 Moore, K., Zaslow, M.J., Coiro, M., Miller, S.M., & Magenheim, E. 1996. The Jobs Evaluation: How Are They Faring? AFDC Families with Preschool-Aged Children in Atlanta at the Outset of the JOBS Evaluation. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation; Blackman, T., Evason, E., Melaugh, M., & Woods, R. 1989. Housing and Health: A Case Study of Two Areas in West Belfast. Journal of Social Policy, 18, (1): 1-26.

17 Very low income households are those with incomes at or below one-half the median income in a geographic area.

18 Physical problems include plumbing, heating, electricity, upkeep, and/or condition of apartment hallways. For detailed definitions of “moderate” and “severe” physical problems, see U.S. Bureau of the Census and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1997, Current Housing Reports H150/95RV, American Housing Survey for the United States in 1995, Washington, D.C., pp. A-13 and A-14.

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