Eye doctors have surprisingly high rates of home ownership. (Mark Elias/Bloomberg)

What do optometrists, firefighters and farmers have in common?

They are among the professions with the nation’s highest homeownership rates, according to an analysis by Ancestry.com, a popular genealogy Website that compiled U.S. Census data on homeownership rates by profession.

Here's the group's ranking at the top of the list:


Michelle Ercanbrack, a family historian at Ancestry.com, said the results suggest that income and homeownership are not always closely tied.

For instance, fire fighters (84 percent of whom own a home) rank well above lawyers and judges (78 percent), and physicians and surgeons (78 percent). Looking further down the rankings, teachers (74 percent) landed many slots above economists (64 percent.) Reporters and editors fare worse than all of the above at with 62 percent, down from 64 percent in 2010.

Ercanbrack said the professions that are highest on the list tend to be those in which close community ties are key to the job. “It makes sense for people with a local, clientele-based occupation to own a home and be fairly well-established in the area in which they work,” she said.

You can use the Ancestry.Com tool below to see homeownership trends by occupation, over time:

While the best-paid professions do not dominate the top of the list, the professions with the lowest homeownership rate have a mean hourly wage of $20 or less, the analysis said. Here they are:


In its analysis, Ancestry.com categorized 179 jobs based on the 2012 Census after scrapping any occupations with an inadequate sample size. For more detailed look at the how the various professions ranked, go to this interactive site.

Taking the long view, Ercanbrack says impressive strides have been made in U.S. homeownership. The homeownership rate has doubled since 1900, though nearly all of that gain was made by the 1960s.

“The opportunity to own land was one of America’s number one draws because that was not an option in many places,” Ercanbrack said. “While there are other economic factors we’re grappling with, it’s good to put it into perspective historically.”

Still, some policy makers are not satisfied, convinced that too many Americans are getting shut out of homeownership, and missing out on an important wealth-building opportunity that can also create jobs for the economy.

In the early 1990s, with the economy growing and the homeownership hovering around 64 percent, President Bill Clinton wanted to expand homeownership. The administration came up with a strategy that aimed to take homeownership to an all-time high and make it easier for 8 million more people to purchase homes by 2000.

The push continued in the George W. Bush administration, which unveiled its “Ownership Society” platform in 2004, and challenged the real estate and mortgage industries to seek out minorities in particular. The initiative's goal was to increase the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million before the end of that decade.

The homeownership rate eventually reached an all-time high of 69 percent in 2004 during the housing bubble. But after the housing market crashed, that rate dropped to 65 percent in 2013 – the lowest annual annual rate in 19 years.

At a recent conference, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said he’ll be pushing for higher rates. "It's time to remove the stigma associated with homeownership," Castro said.