It may be difficult to imagine a time when most American homeowners didn’t have a mortgage to pay. Only 37 percent of American homeowners are living mortgage-free, according to a Social Explorer analysis of 2014-18 American Community Survey data. That may not be a luxury, however; the data indicate that the most homeowners without mortgages live in some of the nation’s poorest counties.
Mortgages haven’t always been so ubiquitous. The 1920 Census, which found that 37 percent of American homeowners had a mortgage, illustrates how mortgages have taken over the U.S. housing market. More than 90 percent of homeowners in 114 U.S. counties had no mortgage in 1920; by 2018, that figure had dropped to four U.S. counties. View the change in the percentage of mortgage-free households over the last century with Social Explorer’s interactive, embeddable mapping tools.
Mortgage-Free Households, 1920-2018 Click here to explore further.