Homeownership Falls Further Out Of Reach For American Teachers

Real Estate

New studies show that homeownership is becoming increasingly more difficult for many American teachers. photo credit: Getty

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Teachers are having a hard time becoming homeowners.

According to two new studies, average teaching incomes coupled with rising home prices are putting the American Dream out of reach for many of our country’s educators.

Recent data from Trulia shows that teachers can afford fewer than half of all currently listed homes in 76% of major cities.

Homeownership is most out of reach in high-cost markets along the West Coast—places like San Francisco, San Jose and San Diego, California, along with Denver and Seattle. In San Jose, teachers can afford less than 1% of available home listings. The average teacher makes just under $80,000 in the city.

Even markets in the typically more affordable Southern region are difficult for those in the teaching profession. In Raleigh, North Carolina, teachers can afford just 11% of all available properties. In Orlando, Florida, and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, they can afford only about 20%.

This chart shows the share of available homes that teachers can afford in each city.

Courtesy of Trulia

Data from Apartment List shows that one in five teachers is burdened by housing costs—a 21% increase over other college-educated heads of household. Housing costs are particularly burdensome for preschool and kindergarten teachers, 41% of whom spend more than 30% of their income on housing every month.

“While teaching has long been a comparatively low-paying profession, rapid increases in housing costs have exacerbated the struggle of teachers,” said Chris Salvati, housing economist for Apartment List. “While rates of housing-cost burden among teachers are lower than the national average, they are higher than that of other Americans with college degrees, and in certain parts of the country—particularly the nation’s high-cost coastal metros—teachers are especially strained.”

According to Cheryl Young, senior economist for Trulia, recent dips in home price growth probably aren’t enough to increase affordability for most educators.

“Even as the housing market shows signs of cooling and evidence that prices may be exhausting demand, the fact remains that home price growth still outpaces wage growth,” Young said. “There is a long way to go before many of those working in our communities are no longer worried about being able to afford to live where they work.”

As Young explained, wages are the primary problem for this cohort—but it’s not for lack of effort or education. According to Apartment List’s analysis, teachers with bachelor’s degrees make 27% less than equally educated grads in other professions. In Phoenix, they earn 40% less.

This chart shows the wage gap between teachers and equally educated workers in other professions.

Courtesy of Apartment List

What’s worse? Almost half of teachers say they work more than 50 hours per week. Another 42% report working over the summer as well.

Teachers in Virginia, West Virginia, Colorado, California, Oklahoma and Arizona have gone on strike in recent years to protest their low wages. Just yesterday, teachers in Las Vegas voted to strike as well. And according to Salvati, these strikes could indicate a problem for the U.S. education system down the road.

“Teaching is one of the most important professions in our society, but unfortunately, teachers are often not compensated in a way enables economic security,” Salvati said. “Nationally, one-in-five primary earner teachers are burdened by their housing costs, and in some of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, that figure is more than one-in-three. Widespread teacher strikes and rising attrition rates point to the difficulty of living comfortably on a teacher’s salary. If not addressed, this issue may deter young educators away from the teaching profession, with significant negative implications for the quality of the American education system.”

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