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Upwards of 45 million Americans live in rural areas, and most of them own single-family homes. Surprised? We weren’t either. What did surprise us is that many rural homeowners aren’t tied down by a mortgage—in fact, according to recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 44 percent of rural homeowners own their homes free and clear, compared to 32.3 percent of urban homeowners.

What’s at play here? Value, for one. The median rural home value rests at $151,300, below the $190,900 of urban areas, according to the survey—but the median household income in rural areas is lower than that of urban areas, too: $52,386 versus $54,296. Mortgages also dip, to $1,271, or $290 less than in urban areas.

New residents are slow to join the sticks—recent research estimates rural areas will expand just 1 percent by 2030. The Census data show the median age of rural residents is 51, and more than 65 percent live in their state of birth, either having moved out of town and come back, or having never left at all. Staying put all those years has not only afforded them more equity, but also the ability to pay off a mortgage in its entirety.

Slow to grow, sure, but sittin’ pretty where it matters.

More from the American Community Survey:

Measuring America: Our Changing Landscape[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Visit the blog daily for housing and real estate tips and trends. Like Housecall on Facebook and follow @HousecallBlog on Twitter.

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