Megan McArdle has written about a wide variety of topics — including the economy, finance and government policy — throughout her 20-year career, but she continually returns to the idea of the home.
“We really wanted to start the week with both a foundational understanding of the state of home ownership in the United States, but also hear perspective on both the economic and cultural factors influencing home ownership,” said Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education. “This has been among the many other issues that McArdle explores as a columnist; this particular topic of home ownership is one that she’s often returned to.”
At 10:45 a.m. Monday, Aug. 8 in the Amphitheater, McArdle opens Week Seven’s theme, “More than Shelter: Redefining the American Home,” with her expertise as a journalist, columnist, blogger and, perhaps not least of all, a homeowner.
McArdle began her career in 2001 writing for her blog “Live From The WTC,” which in 2022 she renamed “Asymmetrical Information.”
McArdle has written for The Economist, The Atlantic, Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Bloomberg’s opinion section, before joining The Washington Post’s opinion staff in 2018. McArdle’s lecture will act as an introduction point for the rest of the week’s presentations.
“With the number of other issues we want to explore during the week with this larger concept of the American home, it’s important for us to first really understand — both from an economic and cultural perspective — our relationship with them with home ownership,” Ewalt said. “From this, we can further explore plenty of other issues, ranging from eviction to poverty to the way in which the United States serves as a sanctuary for those who have been exiled from their home country.”
McArdle has written about home ownership and the logistics behind it for decades. In 2010, two years after the start of the 2008 recession, McArdle shared her journey and thought process behind purchasing a home in the Washington D.C. area in a piece for The Atlantic titled “Why Buy a House?”
In the article, McArdle listed and explained her and her husband’s reasons for choosing home ownership over renting. To begin, McArdle wrote that when owning a home, one has the option to try to pay the mortgage off early.
Specific to McArdle’s search, interest rates were low and the housing market was in a post tax-credit doldrum. For her and her husband, owning a home in the D.C. area was more sustainable than renting, and purchasing a home came down to stabilizing their housing costs to fit their budget.
Nearly a decade later, McArdle published another piece on her experience with home ownership.
In a 2018 column for The Washington Post, McArdle wrote about her home’s renovation and her decision to renovate instead of move.
In a piece titled “What Rising Interest Rates Mean for Homeowners, Buyers and Renters,” McArdle looked at problems with the housing market and the broader economy due to both rising mortgage rates and an increasing median time spent owning a home.
The housing market shrunk, which affected American labor mobility, as more Americans chose to stay instead of move, leading to possible fiscal and monetary crises, she wrote.
In June 2022, McArdle detailed similarities between the current market and the 1970s in an opinion piece titled “A Generation of Homeowners Encounters a Strange New Market,” as mortgage rates surged for the first time in more than three decades.
With this piece, she stressed again the significance of declining homeowner mobility and how that leads to complications for homeowners, employers and policy makers.
McArdle’s work has analyzed cross-generational conversations on homes, which she will discuss at Chautauqua. In her lecture, titled “Homebound,” she will specifically touch on how “people across generations ask questions of one another in terms of having to prioritize home ownership, and how they think about the larger notion of home,” Ewalt said.