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Home sweet home

Home ownership is a common goal in many countries. The share of homeowners in any country's population depends on many factors, ranging from income levels to government incentives and financial help provided by the extended family. We wonder: Which of these countries has the highest percentage of home ownership?

A. United States B. Japan C. Germany D. Spain

A. United States is not correct.

The United States promotes home ownership through tax breaks and other incentives. As a result, 68 percent of all US households own their own homes, about the same rate as in the United Kingdom (69 percent) and Canada (66 percent).

Russia, at 71.5 percent, has an even higher home ownership rate. The reason: After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the government offered Russians the opportunity to buy their formerly state-owned apartments for a nominal price.

B. Japan is not correct.

Sixty percent of Japanese households own the home they live in. Japanese real estate prices soared to record heights during the boom of the 1980s, pricing many average citizens out of the market, but have since moderated somewhat. Still, owning a home continues to be expensive, especially in urban areas, and many Japanese decide to rent instead.

In addition, many young Japanese professionals choose to live with their parents to save on housing expenses.

C. Germany is not correct.

Germany has a home ownership rate of 42 percent, one of the lowest among industrialized countries. Among the reasons are the requirement for a large down payment (often 20 percent to 30 percent of the home's price) and laws that are very favorable to tenants, including limits on rent increases.

Switzerland, at 31 percent, has an even lower home ownership rate than Germany, while Denmark (51 percent), the Netherlands (53 percent), and France (55 percent) also rank near the bottom among countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD.

D. Spain is correct.

At 85 percent, Spain has the highest rate of home ownership among the countries listed, according to data from the OECD.

Two other Southern European countries -- Italy (80 percent) and Greece (83 percent) -- have similarly high shares of households living in their own homes. In such countries, extended families often play a key role in helping their kin buy a home.

The Globalist Quiz is produced by The Globalist, a Washington- based research organization that promotes awareness of world affairs. © 2006 by The Globalist,

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