Will Americans move to rural areas to find affordable housing?

The big apple — if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. At least that’s the old saying, but new data suggests that moving to lesser-known communities with cheaper home values may be a better option for financially strapped Americans.

Could the next saying be: Move to the Midwest or Southwest, young man or woman? Or perhaps, get out of dodge and go to the country for a lifetime of stability?

It’s hard to say, but with traffic a constant reminder of the proverbial rat race, and places like New York featuring a 53.9% homeownership rate, compared to West Virginia’s 72.9% rate, the next trend in real estate may be new emerging markets in places once frowned upon. The only outlier would be the need for jobs to accommodate new residents.

If affordability is the new prize, states like West Virginia have it all over New York.

New data from the Census Bureau shows West Virginia has the highest homeownership rate in the nation — 72.9% to be exact. The median home value in the state hovers just below the $100,000-mark at $98,300.

The District of Columbia, which is struggling with rising prices and falling inventory, has the lowest homeownership rate of 41.6%, Census Bureau data shows.

"The change in homeownership rates from the previous three-year period for the 50 most populous counties ranged from a decrease of 0.4 percent in Westchester County, N.Y., to a decrease of 4.7 percent in Maricopa County, Ariz.," the report said. "The 50 least populous counties ranged from a decrease of 9.5 percent in Warren County, N.C., to an increase of 8.5 percent in Gonzales County, Texas."

And there may be something to this.

A November report from the Census Bureau shows median home values remained steady in smaller counties, while larger counties saw declines in median prices after the most recent recession.

Looking at counties with populations between 20,000 and 65,000, 66.9% of the counties in this category had median home values that were not statistically different from pre-recession-era levels. However, larger counties fared the worst with steep price declines during the recession.

Median home values in 43 of the 50 largest counties fell during this time period.

When looking at the 50 largest metros in terms of population, 49 saw declines in their homeownership rates. The only larger metro that maintained the same rate of homeownership during the downturn was Oklahoma City, with a rate that held constant at 65.2%.