It has long been evident that some parts of the country such as California, Florida and other Sun Belt states were hit harder by price declines during the housing crash than other areas such as New England and some southern and Midwestern states.   Now a housing brief from the U.S. Census Bureau further defines the damage, showing that median home values in many small counties across the nation held steady after the most recent recession, while values in large counties declined.

The brief, Home Value and Homeownership Rates:  Recession and Post-Recession Comparisons from 2007-2009 to 2010-2012 uses the American Community Survey three-year estimates to focus on homeownership rates and home values for smaller areas.  Census figures show that between 2007-2009 and 2010-2012, the median home value decreased nationally by $17,300 to a post-recession value of $174,600.  Median prices decreased in 28 states and increased in 19 states.

In 66.9 percent of counties with populations between 20,000 and 65,000 (1,038 counties) the median home value in the post-recession period of 2010 to 2012 was not statistically different from the recession period of 2007 to 2009.  Similarly the Census Bureau found that the median home values in 37 of the 50 smallest counties showed no statistical differences between the two periods.  In contrast, median home values in 43 of the 50 largest counties declined over the same period.

"The American Community Survey is the only data source that has the capability to show us, how the economic situation in these smaller counties compares with the nation as a whole, as measured by these key housing indicators," said Arthur Cresce, an assistant division chief with the Census Bureau's Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division. "The American Community Survey statistics are important because local businesses, local governments as well as homebuyers and renters can use it to make informed investment, policy and personal decisions."

Smaller counties also demonstrated much larger swings in homeownership rates than their larger counterparts.  In the 2010-2012 period the national homeownership rate declined by 1.7 percent from the earlier period to 64.7 percent.  The change in the 50 most populous counties ranged from a decrease of 0.4 percent in Westchester County, New York, to a decrease of 4.7 percent in Maricopa County, Arizona while in the 50 least populous counties the changes ranged from a decrease of 9.5 percent in Warren County, North Carolina to an increase of 8.5 percent in Gonzales County, Texas.

The District of Columbia had the lowest homeownership rate at 41.6 percent followed by New York at 53.9 percent. West Virginia had the highest homeownership rate (72.9 percent) and lowest median home value ($98,300), while Hawaii had the highest median home value ($503,100) in 2010-2012.  Only nine states did not show a significant change in homeownership rates between the recession and post-recession periods; all other states had lower homeownership rates.

Of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in terms of population, 49 had a significant decrease in their homeownership rates. The only metropolitan area whose homeownership rate did not decline from 2007-2009 to 2010-2012 was the Oklahoma City area, which was unchanged at 65.2 percent.

Of the smaller counties, McDowell County, W.Va., had the lowest median home value at $39,900, and Teton County, Wyo., had the highest median home value at $705,600.