Big 5 Personality Traits of would-be Owners vs. Renters

I feel as if sometime in the early 2000s, society collectively decided that it was better to own a home than rent.  Property values went up and it seemed like people were willing to go to great personal difficulty simply for the sake of being an owner.  It probably didn’t hurt that property values kept going up.  Still, I never felt a strong urge to own and the prospect seemed more like a burden (fixing your own things, having trouble being able to move) than a blessing.  Of course, that may say more about my personality than about owning or renting.

I thought I’d examine the Big 5 personality traits of people who think owning is “better” (e.g believing that home ownership is important to happiness) vs. those who prefer renting (e.g. believing that renting provides significant advantages compared to owning a home) using ~800 people who answered these questions at yourmorals.org.  I had 7 questions about owning vs. renting (alpha = .87).  The Big 5 personality traits are 5 personality dimensions that are deemed most parsimoniously able to characterize people.  The dimensions are Agreeableness (e.g. how well do you want to get along with others), Conscientiousness (e.g. how detail oriented and tidy are you), Extraversion (e.g. how outgoing are you), Neuroticism (e.g. how tense are you), and Openness to Experience (e.g. how much do you seek out new experiences).

Predictably, people who prefer owning a home vs. renting are more conscientious (r = .08, p=.016) and less open to new experiences (r = -.08, p=.03), but the differences are quite small.

Would-be owners are more conscientious and less open to new experiences.

People who want to be owners also also tend to be more conservative (r=.18, p<.001), older (r=.13, p<.001), and tend to prefer buying material things rather than experiences (r=.13, p<.001).  Interestingly, there was no relationship to self described social status or gender.  Obviously many of these relationships are small, but they certainly are as I would predict, with perhaps the exception of the lack of relationship with wealth and gender (my guess would have been that women and wealthier people would prefer home ownership).

Got any interesting hypotheses relating to the personalities of those who prefer renting vs. owning?  I’d happily try them.  I’m eager to examing values with regard to owning/renting next.

- Ravi Iyer

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