Rural-Urban Differences in Housing Cost Burden Across the U.S.


Housing is closely tied to health and well-being, but affordable housing is out of reach for many households. This policy brief examines the proportion of households who are housing cost burdened by rural-urban location across different U.S. geographic spaces—census regions, divisions, states, and counties—in order to identify how housing affordability varies by location.

Key Findings:

  • Housing cost burden, defined as spending over 30% of income on housing costs, is widespread across the U.S. as one-third of urban households and one-quarter of rural households are cost burdened.
  • In each of the four U.S. Census regions, nine divisions, and in most states, higher proportions of urban households are housing cost burdened compared to rural households, but differences vary widely.
  • The Western region has the highest rates of those experiencing housing cost burden for both rural (28.9%) and urban locations (37.0%) overall, largely among states in the Pacific division.
  • California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts have particularly high rates of cost burden among both rural and urban households (ranging from 34.1% - 41.4%).
University of Minnesota Rural Health Research Center
Alexis Swendener, Jonathan Schroeder, Carrie Henning-Smith