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Stephen Mihm

The American Dream That's Not Backed Up by History

The U.S. was a nation of home renters until after World War II.

Last week brought the news that home ownership rates continue to slide, with over half the nation’s largest cities now dominated by renters. The decline is particularly pronounced among millennials: Only 31 percent of adults under the age of 35 own their own homes, with further declines likely in coming years.

It’s tempting, perhaps, to read this trend as yet another sign of national decline. Home ownership, after all, is arguably the most visible symbol of the American dream.