The public value of social housing: a longitudinal analysis of the relationship between housing and life chances

Document type
Leon Feinstein; Ruth Lupton; Cathie Hammond
Smith Institute
Date of publication
6 March 2008
Housing and Homelessness, Poverty Alleviation Welfare Benefits and Financial Inclusion
Social welfare
Material type

Download (540KB )

This briefing paper reports findings from an original study of social housing in the UK from the end of the Second World War to 2003. It is well known that there are currently powerful correlations between social housing tenancy and many aspects of disadvantage, including health, employment, education, social mobility and welfare dependency. This paper investigates the nature of these relationships in more detail. The data used for this study are the UK birth cohort studies, which are large-sample, nationally representative repeat surveys of people born in 1946, 1958, 1970 and 2000. For the three earlier cohorts, the report compares adult outcomes for those in social housing at various stages of life, relative to those in the private rented sector and in owner-occupation.  The research has found two major new results:

  • That the negative correlations now commonly associated with social housing are not inevitable or inherent to provision of housing by the public sector. For older generations, growing up in social housing was not associated with disadvantage.  However, for those born in 1970 negative outcomes are evident.  These effects persist after controlling for many other socioeconomic and developmental factors.
  • This suggests that as society has changed during the postwar period, changes in the availability and nature of social housing, who has got into it, how it has been managed, and how well it has responded to increasing levels of need, have altered the effects that it has had on the people living in it.

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