Such a trend would seem the very image of female empowerment: a single woman buying a home of her own. Whether a middle-age divorcee or a professional in her 30s who has bypassed the marriage-and-baby track—for now, at least—she’s seizing control of her life through real estate. In his eye-opening new book, “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone,” Eric Klinenberg interviewed quite a few of these women and found that, “Buying a home has become a powerful way to pivot from one life stage into another. It’s a signal, to themselves and those who know them, that they are ready to invest in themselves.”
This all sounds liberating, but is it really? That so many single women are proud to invest in themselves, and have the means to do so, is obviously an encouraging development. But I’m skeptical of the idea of anyone buying a home to “signal” his or her arrival. Homeownership, like marriage, is so encrusted with cultural projections and unquestioned assumptions that surely at least some of these women who have figured out that they should marry later (if at all) are unwittingly transferring a desire to feel “settled” or to be considered “grown up” into buying a house because “it’s time”—which is to say, swapping out one piece of conventional wisdom for another.
Just as the “marriage crisis”—the fact that we are marrying later and less—has given us the opportunity to rethink traditional marriage as society’s highest ideal, the housing crisis is our chance to reconsider the centrality of homeownership to the national psyche. Buying a home still works for many people, but it should no longer be taken as the embodiment of the American dream.
Full article at The Wall Street Journal