December 8, 2022

Census Bureau: More Than 19 Million Renters Burdened by Housing Costs

Over 40% (19 million) of renter households in the country spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs during the 2017-2021 period, according to new American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.  Households spending more than 30% on housing costs, including rent or mortgage payments, utilities, and other fees, are considered housing cost burdens according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of affordable housing.

At the county level, 239 or 7.6% of the nation’s 3,143 counties had a median housing cost ratio for renters above 30%. More than half of households with income and paying rent faced housing cost burdens in these counties. Nearly a third of all renters in the nation lived in these counties. In 18 counties, homeowners with a mortgage had a median housing cost ratio above that of renters. That means the median household with a mortgage had higher financial burden than the median household that paid rent in these counties. The hardship caused by the rise in housing costs persisted despite increases in median household income.

“We’ve heard for a while now that incomes were not keeping up with the increased cost of housing,” said Molly Cromwell, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Housing Statistics Branch. “With the most recent data, we can see just how many households were burdened by the cost of their housing.”

The U.S. median household income for the 2017-2021 ACS 5-year period was $69,021. Median household income, adjusted for inflation to 2021 dollars, in the United States increased 10.5% from $62,460 in 2012-2016, the most recent nonoverlapping 5-year period. The rise in median income was not proportionate across all counties, however. Between 2012-2016 and 2017-2021, nearly half (1,374) of all counties experienced an increase in median household income, while more than half (1,699) of all counties did not have a statistically significant change. Most (74.1%) counties had a median household income lower than the national median, while 13.2% of counties had a median household income higher than the national median.

Additional highlights from the newly released estimates: 


Families and Living Arrangements

Additional Annual Releases

The Census Bureau is set to release ACS 5-year Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) files and Variance Replicate Estimates (VRE) on January 26, 2023. The Census Bureau will also release new Selected Population Tables and American Indian and Alaska Native Tables from the 2017-2021 ACS 5-year estimates in 2023. To view the complete release schedule, visit the data year 2021 release schedule page. For more information on the topics included in the ACS, visit the Subjects Included in the Survey page. To access the full set of statistics released today, visit

Statistics from sample surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. All comparisons made in the highlights have been tested and found to be statistically significant at the 90% confidence level, unless otherwise noted. Consult the tables on for specific margins of error. For more information on using margins of error, visit the Code Lists, Definitions, and Accuracy page.

Changes in survey design from year-to-year can affect results. For more information on changes affecting the 2021 statistics, refer to our User Notes.

These statistics would not be possible without participation from ACS respondents throughout the country.

This post was originally published here.