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Hispanic people experiencing largest homeownership gains in America

At 18 percent of the population, Hispanics account for 67.2 percent of U.S. net homeownership gains.

Photo credit: INTI OCON / AFP / Getty Images
  • After a 50-year low, Hispanics have seen the largest homeownership gains for any ethnic demographic.
  • The uptick likely results from a bevy of gains Hispanics have seen in recent years.
  • This rise in homeownership is part of an increasingly diverse United States.


Homeownership is seen as a keystone to the American Dream. The two have become so entwined that President George W. Bush proclaimed June National Home Ownership Month to help "more Americans achieve that dream." His proclamation further stated that homeownership helped families prosper, improved community stability, and promoted civic engagement.

"My Administration is working to provide all families with the tools and information they need to accumulate wealth and overcome barriers to homeownership," then-President Bush wrote. In hindsight, they're words best read with historic side-eye given how the excesses of the home-lending industry brought on the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis.

Recovery has been long and slow, and some communities are still clawing their way out. But since 2015, Hispanics have seen historic gains in homeownership, gains that have helped prop up a still shaky market.

Hispanic homeownership on the rise

Hispanic and Latinx protesters rally against home foreclosures during the Great Recession. Millions of homes were foreclosed upon each year, and minority groups were hit especially hard. Photo credit: Jacob Ruff / Flickr

Citing U.S. Census Bureau data, the Wall Street Journal reported that the rate of homeownership among Hispanics* has increased more than any other ethnic group. The rate has risen 3.3 percent since 2015, a bounce back from a 50-year low in 2015, and last year marked the largest homeownership gains for Hispanics since 2005.

While Hispanics make up roughly 18 percent of the U.S. population, they accounted for 62.7 percent of net homeownership gains, as noted by a National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals' (NAHREP) 2018 report. They are also the only ethnic group to raise their rates of homeownership for the fourth consecutive year, and should this rate of increase continue, they will account for 56 percent of all new homeowners by 2030.

The result is a boost "that could help buoy the market for years," an incredible comeback when you consider how devastating the Great Recession proved to minority groups.

"The housing market would look very different today if it weren't for a tidal wave of Latino home buyers," Gary Acosta, co-founder and chief executive of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, told the Journal.

Recent years have seen Hispanics make other social and economic gains, as well. They are responsible for 81 percent of the U.S. labor force growth over the last decade, a time of economic expansion. Their median household income has seen the largest increase among all racial and ethnic demographics. And more Hispanics are earning diplomas and degrees than in the late '90s.

What are the reasons for these gains?

A good guess would be all of the above. The Wall Street Journal article cites education, income gains, and a growing familiarly with the U.S. mortgage system as the drivers of Hispanic homeownership. Jerry Brown, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, argues for similar reasons:

"We've been studying it a little bit and what we think we see is, like a lot of Caucasian America, Hispanic income has risen significantly since the recession. Also, we see an increase in education levels among Hispanics. And thirdly, for some of the newly arriving Hispanics, they are used to paying cash for big purchases — that helps them avoid the complexities of the mortgage system."

Sadly, the windfall hasn't been even across the demographic board. African-American homeownership has dropped to an all-time low, falling 8.6 percent since its 2004 height. Potential explanations include a difficult recovery after the housing crisis and America's legacy of housing segregation.

Millennials are also less likely to own homes, despite many ultimately desiring to. This is thanks in part to student debt, income-devouring rents, and less median income than previous generations enjoyed at the same age.

America's shifting demographics

Another reason for these historic gains is ongoing demographic change. In short, America is, and will continue to become, more diverse than it was in previous generations. As we mentioned, Hispanics make up 18 percent of the U.S. population but half of U.S. population growth over the last decade.

At the same time, the population of Americans who identify as non-Hispanic white has been falling. In Hawaii, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Nevada, non-Hispanic whites make up less than 50 percent of the population.

Dudley Poston, professor of sociology at Texas A&M University, and Rogelio Sáenz, professor of demography at the University of Texas at San Antonio, crunched the numbers and found that an "aging white population, alongside a more youthful minority population, especially in the case of Latinos, will result in the U.S. becoming a majority-minority country in around 2044."

With America's demographics shifting over the next decades, no doubt people who identify as Hispanic will continue making these historic strides.

* We're use "Hispanic" over Latino, Latina, or Latinx as it is the term used in NAHREP's 2018 State of Hispanic Home Ownership Report, a major source of data for this article.

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A neural crêpe

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So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.

The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."

Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum

Image source: Sereno, et al.

A complicated map

Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."

That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.

It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."

This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."

Bigger and bigger

The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.

"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."

As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."

Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."

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