Homeownership in the United States declined during the past 10 years for the first decadelong drop since the 1930s, the Commerce Department reported.

However, Utah bucked the western trend by showing a gain in homeownership rates between 1986 and 1989 and by showing a homeownership rate higher than the nation's.The national homeownership rate in 1989 was 63.9 percent, down from 65.6 percent in 1980, the department's Census Bureau said.

Homeownership varied by region, with ownership up in the Northeast but down in the Midwest, South and West.

Ownership rates in the West, lower than the national average, declined last year in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, while more people bought homes in Hawaii. The California ownership rate remained stable.

In Utah, the 1984 homeownership rate was 69.9 percent. It rose to 71.5 percent in 1985, then dropped to a decade low of 68 percent in 1986. By 1989, the ownership rate had risen to 70.4 percent, said Robert Callis, Census Bureau statistician.

Callis said the bureau has been tracking the ownership rates since 1984 and said the statistical decline is due to the rise in the number of non-married family households. The number of these households - usually headed by a single parent - grew more quickly than married family households nationwide, Callis said. Analyses were not done on a state-by-state basis, he said.

Outside the West, ownership rates in the Midwest and South during the decade were higher than the national rate while the rates in the Northeast were lower than the national norm.

The bureau's report states that younger households continued to struggle with rising prices and other economic constraints during the decade. Ownership rates for householders under the age of 35 decreased to 39 percent last year from 41 percent in 1982.

Younger married households also had trouble moving into their own homes. Ownership rates for this group slipped to 57 percent last year from 58 percent in 1982.

The bureau found ownership declined in 16 states, including seven in the Midwest, from 1984 to 1989. Only 10 states reported higher ownership rates during the decade, including four in the Northeast.

West Virginians posted the nation's highest ownership rate last year at 74.8 percent. New Yorkers had the lowest rate last year, at 52.8 percent.

In the nation's 61 metropolitan areas, only 14 reported higher ownership rates last year from 1986 and nine had lower rates.

Of the 10 biggest cities, five had higher rates last year when compared with 1986 and none had lower rates, the government said.

Seven Midwestern states posted significant declines in ownership rates in the past five years, including Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Only Ohio and Wisconsin posted ownership increases in the region.

In the Northeast, ownership rates were higher last year than in 1986 in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, but lower in Massachusetts, which has been hammered by economic weakness.

Declines were posted by five Southern states, including Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana and Maryland. But South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia posted gains.

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(Additional information)

Ownership in Utah

1984 69.9%

1985 71.5%

1986 68.0%

1987 69.0%

1988 70.2%

1989 70.4%