Why Women Build Matters
Despite the fact that it is harder for women to become homeowners than it is for similarly situated men, single women are currently outpacing single men when it comes to homeownership, both here in Chicago and across the country. Homeownership is not only a powerful wealth-generating tool; it also improves the health, educational, and social outcomes for individuals and their children.
To achieve gender equality and to provide children with futures of opportunity, we must take affordable homeownership seriously. Women Build exists to do just that. It’s not just 600 women coming together to build houses – it’s 600 women coming together to build strength, stability, and equality.
Stable, quality, and affordable homeownership and why it matters:
- A home is typically the largest asset a household will have and its equity increases a household's wealth over time.
- An affordable mortgage gives households a predictable, controlled amount for their shelter for decades, as opposed to facing the volatility of rent increases that plague quickly-changing city markets.
- In 2021, the National Association of Realtors estimated the average homeowner's net worth at about $300,000, almost 40 times that of renters' $8,000.1 Since 2010, the gap between homeowners' and renters' wealth has experienced an increase of 25%, with the average homeowner having almost $250,000 more wealth than the average renter. As the average price of homes continues to rise and homes continue to appreciate in value, the gap between homeowners' and renters' wealth will continue to increase.2
- Poor housing quality is associated with higher baseline symptoms of anxiety, depression, and aggression in children from elementary school through young adulthood. It is also associated with a variety of negative health outcomes, including asthma and cardiovascular disease risk factors.3
- Cost-burdened households frequently prioritize housing costs over health care expenses, such as doctor’s visits and vital medications, and are often forced to choose living conditions that are more cost-effective, but more detrimental to their health and well-being.4
- Renter households with children are more likely to have asthma triggers in their homes than owner households, and are more likely to have at least one child with asthma.5
- For low-income families, housing affordability is associated with greater spending on child enrichment. It also reduces children's residential instability, which has been associated with increased educational attainment and increased earnings in adulthood.6
- All other things being equal, children of homeowners do better in school (scoring higher on test scores and lower on anti-social behaviors).7
The Gendered Roadblocks
Why it's harder for women to become homeowners:
Unequal Pay and Uneven Care Responsibilities
- Women are estimated to make 83 cents for every dollar a man makes in the United States in 2022.8 There is not a state in the United States where women have an average higher salary than men and the median income of households headed by women is almost $20,000 lower than those headed by men.9
- In 2022, the wage gap in Illinois between men and women workers is $11,046, higher than the national average of $10,381. This 18.1% difference between the earnings of men and women working in year-round, full-time positions is reflective of the wealth disparities between men and women in the labor market and many other systemic barriers.10
- As of 2023, 80% of single-parent households in the United States are headed by women.11 Similarly, women are significantly more likely to take on the vast majority of unpaid household and care work, such as primary child and elder care, in addition to their jobs and paid labor.12 These uneven caregiving responsibilities prevent women from equally investing their time and financial resources into homeownership. Additionally, women who return to the workforce often suffer a wage penalty that negatively impacts both opportunities for advancement and equal compensation for labor.13
Higher Mortgage Denials and Mortgage Rates, Despite Superior Payment Performance
- As a result of earning less than single men, single women borrowers have a higher mortgage debt relative to income (3.3x a single woman's income vs 3.2 a single man's income).14
- Single women spend about 2% more when they buy a house, and when it is time to sell it, they get a price 2% less, which is 1.5% less in annual returns. That translates to losing $1,600 per year relative to single men on the same house.15 In 49 of 50 states, women pay higher mortgage rates than men.16
- When single women are awarded mortgages, they face significantly higher interest rates than single men due to more subprime mortgages and weaker credit characteristics, even though they are better at paying their mortgages than men.17
It's Even Harder for Black Women
- Wage and wealth gaps are considerably higher for Black women and women of color who are most likely to be paid less for the same jobs despite similar levels of education and experience.18 Black women also face discrimination in recruitment, hiring and promotion as well as occupational segregation and underrepresentation in higher-paid positions where, even when occupying a similar job, Black women earn 67.6% of the income of white men.19
- In 2019, the median wealth of a single white man under the age of 35 ($22,640) was 3.5 times greater than that of single white women ($6,370) and 224 times greater than that of single Black women ($101).20
Nevertheless, She Persisted
- Single white women without a college degree have $3,000 more in median wealth than single Black women with a college degree. Single white women with a bachelor’s degree have seven times the wealth of their black counterparts, $35,000 and $5,000 in median wealth, respectively. One reason for the wealth gap among college educated single women is that Black women have the highest level of student debt due to racial wealth and income gaps and struggle to pay off the debt in early adulthood despite working full-time.21
Despite all of these hurdles, single women are outpacing single men when it comes to homeownership.
- As of January 2021, single women own 2.64 million more homes in 50 of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. Overall, single women own 10.76 million homes while single men own roughly 8.12 million homes and there is not a single city among the list of 50 largest cities where single male homeownership outnumbers female homeownership.26
- In Illinois, single women own 3.66% more homes than single men.26
The Role of Women Build
Together, as a community of more than 600 women strong, we will:
- Help more women become owners of stable, quality, and affordable homes.
- Help more women grow their wealth and independence.
- Help more women build futures of opportunity for their children.
- Help move the needle on the gender wealth gap.
1. https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2022-snapshot-of-race-and-home-buying-in-the-us-04-26-2022.pdf, page 5.
3. https://howhousingmatters.org/articles/housing-affects-childrens-outcomes/; https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hpb20180313.396577/full/; https://housingmatters.urban.org/research-summary/how-does-housing-affect-heart-health
6. https://howhousingmatters.org/articles/even-as-american-dream-changes-housing-central-to-economy/; https://www.opportunityhome.org/resources/stable-affordable-housing-drives-stronger-student-outcomes/
9. https://www.business.org/hr/benefits/gender-pay-gap/; http://www.mortgagenewsdaily.com/04072021_homeownership.asp
12. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/unequal-division-labor/; https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/IWPR-Providing-Unpaid-Household-and-Care-Work-in-the-United-States-Uncovering-Inequality.pdf
15. https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/single-women-get-lower-returns-from-housing-investments 16.https://www.housingwire.com/articles/women-pay-higher-mortgage-rates-in-49-states/ ; https://www.bankrate.com/loans/personal-loans/history-of-women-and-loans/
17. https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/podcast/knowledge-at-wharton-podcast/why-women-pay-more-for-mortgages/; https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/84206/2000930-Women-Are-Better-Than-Men-At-Paying-Their-Mortgages.pdf
18. https://www.payscale.com/research-and-insights/gender-pay-gap/; https://www.aauw.org/resources/article/black-women-and-the-pay-gap/
19. https://iwpr.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Shortchanged-and-Underpaid_Black-Women-and-the-Pay-Gap_FINAL.pdf; https://www.aauw.org/resources/article/black-women-and-the-pay-gap/
20. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/12/08/the-black-white-wealth-gap-left-black-households-more vulnerable/#:~:text=The%20median%20wealth%20of%20single,single%20Black%20women%20(%24101).
22. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2020/12/08/the-black-white-wealth-gap-left-black-households-more-vulnerable/; https://hermoney.com/invest/real-estate/the-truth-about-black-women-and-homeownership/?msclkid=556e8a0bc6fa11eca453f69bdf38fc11