Ranking Presidents, The Ownership Economy Redux

This post is on the ownership economy… it updates this post using new information, though some of the old info will be repeated so the post makes some sense. The methodology used in this post is the same as in previous posts used to rank Presidents by Economic Growth, Fiscal Responsibility, and the growth rate of personal income, and the Religious Right issues.

To begin, a look at the growth in the S&P 500, adjusted for inflation. This is a good measure of the economic activity of the financial markets – as the stock market goes up (in real terms), investors are better off, and retirement plans look better. To summarize results:

So what does the graph show? Well, Clinton did best, followed by Ike and then GHW. Yes, Ike. And GHW. Three administrations had negative real growth in the S&P 500… GW, Carter and Nixon/Ford.

What about homeownership? Well, simply looking at appreciation is not a good measure of how well people are doing. A better measure is home ownership. Anyone paying attention may recall it wasn’t that long ago – perhaps two or three years ago – that GW was crowing about how many home owners there were in this country. Here’s a summary of how that figure has changed over the various administrations:

Data doesn’t go back far enough to include Ike, but the top three slots are held by the three Democratic administrations, followed by GW and Nixon/Ford. Home ownership fell under GHW, and even more under the Reagan.

But home ownership ignores a few details… namely, how much of one’s home one actually owns. More info home owners’ equity

Here’s a summary….

Another measure is total net worth, that is, total assets less total liabilities. Sadly, this data is only available for households + nonprofits. My post on that subject went up just yesterday. Here’s a summary of the results…

While each of these measures captures some element of the ownership economy, each has flaws. Thus, the best measure of how well the American public fared on “ownership issues” during the administration of each President would combine that President’s rankings on each of the series.

For instance, Ike is only ranked on three of the series – there isn’t enough data to rank him on home ownership. Thus, we can produce a weighted sum of ranks for Ike as follows… Because he is ranked 2 on S&P 500 growth (of 8 administrations), ranked sixth on owner’s equity as a percentage of home value, and fourth on growth of real net worth, his weighted sum of ranks is equal to:

[(2/8) + (7/8) + (4/8)]/3 = 0.5417.

The same process is followed for the other Presidents. Because each of the others appears in 4 series, the computation is marginally different. For instance, for JFK/LBJ:

[(5/8) + (2/7) + (4/8) + (2/8)]/4 = 0.4152

So here’s how it stacks up…

Americans did best, by far, under Clinton. Not surprising… he came out tops on three of four series, and third on the on Annualized Percentage Change in Owner’s Equity as a Percent of Residential Real Estate. I realize that Rudy G. doesn’t want to go back to the 1990s, but more Americans seem to have fared well then than at any other time. JFK/LBJ followed, Carter came next, with Ike tied. Reagan was fifth. GW and Nixon/Ford tied for sixth… though who wants to bet on whether GW moves up or down when all the data from his term comes in? (Remember, the guy hasn’t said one peep about the Ownership Economy in a while.) GHW is (currently) in last.