Relative housing space inequality in England and Wales, and its recent rapid resurgence

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Low consumption of housing and housing inequality has generally been measured through absolute rather than relative standards. This paper develops a relative measure of housing space consumption and applies it to England and Wales for 1911-2011. Over this period, the population grew by half, but the number of rooms tripled. The rate of low absolute housing consumption (overcrowding) fell from 49% to 4%. However, using the Gini coefficient, inequality in housing space was almost unchanged. Using inequality definitions more sensitive to the bottom of the distribution, the century splits into two parts. Housing space inequality reduced steadily from the 1920s to the 1980s, but then the trend reversed, and by 2011 inequality had returned to levels not seen for fifty years or more. This rise in housing space inequality warrants attention. Possible explanations include increased income inequality, a reduction in social housing, the rise of one person households, and development of larger homes.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Housing Policy
Early online date13 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • inequality
  • housing space
  • long-term trends
  • overcrowding
  • housing consumption
  • housing occupation density

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