NYU Furman Center Sign Up Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
National Rental Housing Landscape


Definition of Metropolitan Areas

We studied the 53 metropolitan areas in the U.S. with a population of greater than one million in 2015 (“metros”). Metropolitan areas are Core-Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) as described by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) 2013 definitions, which were based on the 2010 decennial census. Each metro is a collection of counties and may cross state lines. Indicators not disaggregated by geography include households in all 53 metros.

Data Sources and Weighting Procedures

Unless otherwise noted, data are from the one-year estimates of the American Community Survey (ACS), an annual survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2013, the OMB released new metropolitan area definitions based on the 2010 decennial census population count. Several of the metros in this study added or lost counties between 2006 and 2013, but because we always use the 2013 OMB definitions, indicators for all years are tabulated for the metros as they were defined in 2013.

In order to ensure consistency across years and geographies, and to calculate indicators for specific household types, we used person- and household-level data from the ACS Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS). The geographic unit of the PUMS data is the Public Use Microdata Area (PUMA), and PUMAs generally have borders that align with counties, and thus with metropolitan areas. This allows us to calculate estimates for the metros as they existed in 2015 for both 2006 and 2012. The PUMS data were extracted from the University of Minnesota’s IPUMS-USA database.

Occasionally, however, a PUMA’s boundaries may cross metro borders. For most indicators, we use relationship files provided by the Missouri Census Data Center to weight PUMAs by the fraction of housing units in 2010 that fell within a metro. When calculating medians, however, it is not possible to weight (and thus split) PUMAs. Therefore, median rent and median household income are derived from households in the PUMAs where 100 percent of its housing units fell within a metro.

Inflation Adjustments

All dollar figures are presented in constant 2015 dollars, adjusted using the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for All Urban Consumers (Current Series) without seasonal adjustments from the Bureau of Labor Statistics over all major expenditure classes.

Household Characteristics

We disaggregate households by the characteristics of household members. Household classifications are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

Households Classified by Area Median Income

We classify households into mutually exclusive income categories based on percentage of area median income (AMI): (1) less than 50 percent of AMI; (2) 50 to 80 percent of AMI; (3) 80 to 120 percent of AMI; and (4) more than 120 percent of AMI.  The AMI is based on the median household income for each metro, respectively.

Households Classified by Employment Status

Employed households are households with at least one actively employed member while not working households are households with no employed members regardless of labor force participation status.

Households Classified by Educational Attainment

We classify households into three mutually-exclusive categories based on the highest level of educational attainment of any household member: (1) high education–at least one household member has a bachelor’s degree or higher; (2) medium education–at least one member has at least some college education, including an associate’s degree, and no other household members have a bachelor’s degree; and (3) low education–all household members have a high school diploma or less.

Households Classified by Race and Ethnicity

Households are classified by race and ethnicity if any member in the household identifies as non-Hispanic Asian, non-Hispanic black, Hispanic, or non-Hispanic white.  These categories are not mutually exclusive.

Households Classified by Age

Households with children have at least one household member aged 17 or younger. Senior households have at least one household member aged 65 or older. These categories are not mutually exclusive.

Indicator Notes

Unless otherwise noted, all indicators are measured at the household level.

Median Household Income

Household income is the total income of all members of a household aged 15 years or older.

Median Rent

All rent data is for occupied units only. Rents are gross monthly rents and include utility cost.               

Recently Available or Recently Marketed Units

A unit is defined as recently available or recently marketed if every household member moved into the unit within the previous 12 months (prior to the date of their ACS interview, which could have happened at any time during the calendar year). Since vacant units in the ACS do not have rent data, vacant units are generally excluded from the set of recently available units. By definition, recently available units also include new units that became occupied.

Rent Burden

A household is considered rent burdened if its gross rent, including utility costs, is more than 30 percent of the household’s pre-tax income. A household is considered severely rent burdened if it spends more than 50 percent of the household’s pre-tax income on gross rent.

Rental Vacancy Rate

Vacant, for-rent housing units expressed as a percentage of all rental housing units.