- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 7, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Asians and Hispanics who immigrate to the United States and become naturalized citizens are more likely to own homes than members of the same groups who are born in the country, the Census Bureau reported yesterday.

About 63 percent of foreign-born Hispanics who are naturalized citizens owned their homes in 2002, compared with 54 percent of Hispanics born in the United States, the bureau said.

The difference was even greater between naturalized immigrant Asians and native-born Asians: 70 percent to 57 percent, respectively.

Like U.S. homeownership overall, rates in these race and ethnic groups have increased generally since the mid-1990s, helped by falling interest rates and an economy that was booming for most of the period.

Still, some experts were mildly surprised that people born outside the country were more apt to own homes than native-born people in the same racial or ethnic group.

“Remember, what we export in terms of pop culture often revolves around owning a home, especially older popular culture about suburbia,” said Robert Lang, a metropolitan development and planning professor at Virginia Tech.

“A lot of people come to this country eager to participate fully in American life,” said.

Generally, immigrants in the country longer, regardless of citizenship status, are more likely be homeowners. For instance, 60 percent of naturalized citizens who arrived in 1975 or later owned their homes, compared with 77 percent of those who arrived before 1975.

Waiting longer helps people build savings that can be used as down payments, said Janis Bowdler, housing-policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.

And while the foreign-born population is concentrated in urban areas in gateway states like New York and California, Miss Bowdler noted sizable increases in the immigrant population over the 1990s in more affordable states, such as North Carolina and Nevada.

“Generally, homeownership in many foreign countries requires a much larger down payment than in the United States, and many immigrants are surprised by the opportunity,” said Lawrence Yun, senior economist at the National Association of Realtors.

The Census Bureau study found the overall homeownership rate rose from 64 percent in 1994 to a record high of 67.9 percent in 2002.

Rates were also at record levels for non-Hispanic whites, regardless of citizenship status (74.5 percent), as well as Asians (54.7 percent) and Hispanics (48.2 percent). The 47.3 rate for blacks in 2002 was less than a half-point lower than in 2001.

Between 1994 and 2002, the homeownership rate rose from 65.7 percent to 70.3 percent for all native-born residents; from 66.8 percent to 67.6 percent among naturalized citizens; and from 32.9 percent to 34.9 percent among noncitizens.

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