When American workers started quitting in 2020, the headlines focused the blame squarely on Gen Z and millennials, who sure, were leaving gigs at higher rates, according to the studies. But as it turns out, younger workers weren’t staying away — how could they suddenly afford to? They were often just switching for different work or to take time off. And 2 million of the 3.5 million workers who are still out of office are what Fed chair Jerome Powell terms “excess retirements,” or older workers who left ahead of schedule. New research shows one reason why they could afford to do that: selling us their houses, at astronomical prices.
A working paper from the University of British Columbia found that in cities where home prices jumped 10 percent in 2021, homeowners over 65 were less likely to work than those in cities where prices were stable. By comparison, they looked at renters at the same age, in the same cities, and found the opposite was true: They were more likely to stay in the workforce. And when they looked at middle-aged homeowners, there was no relationship between housing prices and working at all.
The data came from the American Communities Survey, the annual survey of around 250,000 random addresses run by the Census Bureau, so sure, this isn’t everyone. But it was enough for the researchers to claim, “The Great Resignation among older workers can be almost entirely explained by the 2021 housing boom.”