Peng Peng Zheng, Research Assistant at The University of Texas at Dallas
There are several issues associated with this phenomenon. It demands a really long essay to fully explain how the two societies evolved this way, but I will just briefly cover the points.
The most down to Earth reason is that our equivalent of the US Social Security-The Central Provident Fund (CPF)-is a personal rather than national saving. Unlike the pension system of any other nation, the fixed amount channeled into your CPF can only be used by you or your family in the future.
Second point relates to why this policy exists in the first place. The real estate value in Singapore increases by a few folds every few decades. Immigrants who are on the permanent resident (green card) status are not allowed to buy new houses, house ownership is therefore actually a guaranteed source of income for Singaporeans in this sense.
You might ask ‘Can’t the same system work for USA?’ You could, but the bill can hardly be granted in the first place. USA economy is built around the mobility of Americans. I have not met any US family that are not scattered all over USA, young people basically move all over USA to search for jobs. Having a fixed home is extremely inconvenient in this sense.
Most large nations work better with the USA housing system rather than Singapore’s. For example China, the younger generations are mostly rent apartments, not that they can afford a new house to begin with.
Lastly, but most importantly, it is also a cultural difference. Singaporeans are mostly Chinese by tradition and there is a certain level of ‘shame’ if a newly wed couple does not obtain a flat. In USA, most people find me insane for thinking that way, so there is that.