Wealth, defined as all of the assets an individual owns, is difficult to measure because many times it is hidden. Here we will use the median value of homes and the degree to which this value appreciates over time as approximate measures of wealth. At the time the census was done in 2000, the median value of homes for the United States as a whole was $119,600; however, housing values reflect local markets, so we can expect to see wide variations in the communities we are researching. Table 1 provides information on housing values for the four communities we are investigating.
Table 1. Wealth (as measured by housing values), 2000
Median housing value
% valued at less than $200,000
% valued between $200,000 and $499,999
% valued at $500,000+
Source: American Fact Finder, Fact Sheet, “Housing Characteristics,” U.S. Census 2000.
Writing Assignment 1
After comparing these communities, summarize the differences among them, as well as how each stands in relation to the national median housing values.
Soc 300 Writing about data (2)
As a generator of wealth, housing is important if it increases in value over time. Table 2 provides you with information on the housing values for these same communities in both 1990 and 2000, as well as the percentage change in the values between these two points in time (the percentage change was calculated by subtracting the value in 2000 from the value in 1990, dividing this amount by the 1990 value, then multiplying by 100).
Table 2. Housing Values in 1990 and 2000 and the Percentage Change in These Values
1990 Housing Value
2000 Housing Value
Source: U.S. Census 1990 and 2000.
Writing Assignment 2
Which of the communities had the greatest appreciation in housing values over the ten -year period? Overall, what was the pattern of change? What can you conclude about the accumulation of wealth by individuals within these four communities?