Assessing housing inequality using a relative measure

Research output: Working paper

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DatePublished - 2011
Number of pages22
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This paper defines and measures one important form of consumption inequality, inequality in the consumption of housing, measured through housing space. It considers housing consumption in relative rather than absolute terms, in parallel to the concept of relative poverty, which is a new development for housing studies. In 2001, the Gini coefficient for the consumption of housing space by individuals in England and Wales was 0.36, similar to the figure for income. While there was rapid housing production 1911-2001 and dramatic falls in absolute low consumption of space, the Gini coefficient was almost unchanged. The most spaciously housed decile of the population made the greatest absolute and proportionate gains over the century. The least spaciously housed tenth only achieved one room per person by 1991, and saw no improvement 1991-2001. Measures of inequality more sensitive to the bottom of the distribution show reductions in inequality 1921-1981, followed by increases 1981-2001, when income inequality was growing. Thus there appears to be a close relationship between the level of and trends in income inequality and those for housing consumption inequality. This suggests a possible causal relationship, and implies that social policy has not significantly decommodified the consumption of housing space.

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