County by County Blog

Project updates, commentaries, events and news about health across the nation from the County Health Rankings & Roadmaps team.

This Year’s Rankings Explore Severe Housing Cost Burden and Health

Publication date
March 19, 2019

The County Health Rankings show us that the where we live makes a difference in how well and how long we live. Our health is influenced by many things—a good job, a quality education, and safe places to play—and all of these factors are linked to where we live: our home.
A safe, secure, and affordable place to call home is the foundation for good health and well-being. However, as housing expenses have outpaced local incomes in our country, many families are burdened by severe housing costs—meaning they pay more than half their income on housing. When the vast majority of a family’s paycheck goes to housing, it leaves little money for other essentials that contribute to good health, such as healthy food, medicine, or transportation to work and school.
This year’s Key Findings Report shows us the burden of severe housing cost is widespread—with potential health impacts on families and communities across our country:

  • Across the U.S., more than 1 in 10 households (11%) spend more than half of their income on housing costs (severe housing cost burden). And people with low incomes and people of color are even more likely to be burdened by high housing costs.
  • Severe housing cost burden affects health and is linked to barriers to living long and well. Across counties in places where a higher share of households are severely cost burdened, there are also high rates of children in poverty and food insecurity, and more people in poor health.
  • ​More segregated counties have higher rates of severe cost burden, for both White and Black households. However, Black residents face greater barriers to opportunity and health than White residents. Nearly 1 in 4 Black households spends more than half of their income on housing compared to 1 in 10 White households.

There is no single fix for high housing costs, but the County Health Rankings’ resources are a great place to start. Every community can view their county snapshot to assess their most pressing needs and explore our Take Action to Improve Health resources for tools and strategies to consider. 
Together, we can ensure that everyone—no matter where they live, how much money they make, or the color of their skin—has the opportunity to live in a safe, secure, and affordable home. 


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