Home ownership in the United States declined during the past decade for the first decadelong drop since the 1930s, the Commerce Department reported Thursday.

The homeownership rate was 63.9 percent last year, down from 65.6 percent in 1980, the department's Census Bureau said."The drop in the homeownership rate meant that the percentage of householders who were homeowners decreased and the percentage who were renters increased during this time," the bureau said.

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 while New Yorkers had the lowest rate 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.

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

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

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.

Only Ohio and Wisconsin posted ownership increases in the Midwest region.