Free and Clear: National Origins and Progress Toward Unencumbered Homeownership Among Post–Civil Rights Era Immigrants

Amon Emeka , Skidmore College

Research on immigrant homeownership does not differentiate that which is encumbered by mortgage debt and that which is “free and clear.” This is an important distinction since wealth held in the form of encumbered home equity can be fleeting. I use US Census and American Community Survey data to chart progress toward unencumbered homeownership among immigrants born in the 1950’s who immigrated to the US in the 1970’s. Observing this cohort across a 25 year period (1990-2015), I uncover a robust pattern of unencumbered home equity accumulation as they approach the retirement ages. By the end of the period, some immigrant groups exhibited higher rates of “free and clear” homeownership than their US-born white counterparts while others lagged in ways that cannot be explained by compositional differences between groups. Theoretical and policy implications of these findings are discussed.

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 Presented in Session 7. Migration & Urbanization