Perceptions of respect for renting vs. owning your own home
Historically, owning a home has been considered part of the “American Dream.” But it is becoming increasingly difficulty to buy a home in the U.S. (Carpenter, 2021; Parker, 2019). Houses are expensive, and usually buying one entails a long-term commitment to that location and community.
The longer-term commitments associated with home ownership have historically earned owners more positive social perceptions than renters. But with home ownership so difficult and renting become more normalized, we asked—is there really a difference in perceptions toward home owners vs. renters? And if such a difference exists, do younger people catch a break due to the difficulties they’ve faced from the housing market?
We conducted an experiment with 400 people on Amazon Mechanical Turk in which participants were given some information about a hypothetical person who either rented or owned their home, and who was either 28 years old or 48 years old. Both sets of conditions were randomly assigned separately, forming a 2x2 factorial experiment. Participants were told the following:
“Below is some information about a person you haven’t met:
28 years old
[Rents / Owns] a home near the city”
Participants were then asked “How much do you respect this person? (1 = Not at all, 7 = Very much)” using a 1-7 scale.
Our analysis revealed no significant difference in respect ratings between home owners (avg. = 5.18) and home renters (avg. = 5.01), (p = 0.125). Although owners were rated just a bit higher, the difference was ultimately trivial. Nor did we find any interaction with the age of our home owner/renter (p = 0.643) or the age of participants (p = 0.257).
In conclusion, if one of your reasons for wanting to own a home is to make people respect you more, you may not need to worry about that. That’s probably a good thing in this housing market.
We used an independent samples t-test to test for significant differences in perceptions between our two experimental conditions. For significant differences, the difference between the two groups' averages would be large and its corresponding “p-value” would be small. If the p-value is less than 0.05, we consider the difference statistically significant, meaning we'd likely find a similar effect if we ran the study again with this population. To test for significant interactions between the main results and participant demographics, we used OLS regression analyses with interaction terms.