Unexpectedly Intriguing!
October 17, 2019

In 2017, the average rent in the U.S. was "too damn high". In 2018, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey, it was even higher.

Average Annual Home Ownership and Rent Expenditures per U.S. Household Consumer Unit, 1984-2018

Remarkably, the rent rose even as the cost to own, as measured by the average annual combined cost of mortgage principal and interest payments, fell. From 2017 to 2018, the average household consumer unit expenditure for rent increased from $4,167 to $4,269, while the cost to own declined from $5,104 to $5,002.

Before going any further, we should recognize the data reported by the Consumer Expenditure Survey is spreading all these payments out over all household consumer units in the United States. In 2018, there were an estimated 131,439,000 household consumer units, where 48,632,430 (37%) paying rent, an equal number of homeowners making mortgage payments, and 34,174,140 homeowners (26%) with no mortgage payments.

Doing the math for renters, multiplying the average $4,167 in annual rent payments by 131,439,000 household consumer units, we estimate the total rent paid in 2018 adds up to $547.7 billion. Dividing that result by the estimated 48,632,430 rent payers, we find the average annual rent is $11,262. Dividing by 12 gives an average monthly rent of $938.51, which is indeed slightly higher than the $935 per month figure we previously calculated for 2017.

Doing the almost identical math for homeowners making mortgage payments, we estimate aggregate mortgage payments to be $657.5 billion, with the average annual total of mortgage payments working out to be $13,519, which corresponds to an average monthly principal and interest mortgage payment of $1,126.58.

The average monthly rent paid in the United States in 2018 is 83% of the cost of a simple mortgage payment that omits any homeowners' insurance payments or property taxes that might be included with it.

In case you're wondering what ever happened to Jimmy McMillan, the founder of the Rent Is Too Damn High political party in New York who ran for state governor in 2006 and 2010, he has retired from politics, but since the rent keeps rising, we can only wonder if he is considering making a comeback!

Data Sources

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau.  Consumer Expenditure Survey.  Multiyear Tables.  [PDF Documents: 1984-1991, 1992-1999, 2000-2005, 2006-2012, 2013-2018]. Reference Directory: https://www.bls.gov/cex/csxmulti.htm. 10 September 2019. 

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