People’s housing situation changes through stages of their life-course – the way in which this occurs in Britain is the focus of this chapter. In keeping with the rest of this book, the chapter is concerned with the dynamics of the housing situation, and not simply cross-sectional snapshots. It considers not only the nature of the moves that people make from year to year, but goes beyond this to look at the cumulative impacts of these moves. It then describes housing careers as they develop over the life-course.
The housing career may be considered as not unlike the work career. It starts with leaving the childhood situation, a process of relatively active search. It then leads to relatively high mobility, and a process of investment to obtain or keep better jobs or housing, although in the case of the work career the investments are mainly in human capital, while in the housing career they are financial investments. These processes of career building in both housing and work tend to lead to a stabilisation in middle periods of the life-course. It is at the later stages of the life-course that the patterns diverge, since although there is sometimes a scaling down of housing requirements, it is nothing like as deterministic as the disengagement from the labour market.
However, there are three important reasons for elaborations to this view of the housing career. The housing career is:
substantially shaped by the work career, both because the investments which people can make in housing will depend on their incomes (and on the stability of their incomes) and also because work career mobility will often require housing mobility;
directly influenced by the movements through various stages of the life-course: there are changing housing space and location requirements from different stages of the process of family building;
strongly influenced by the pattern of state intervention, perhaps even more so than the work career, leading to much greater differences in housing careers in different countries, and greater changes over time within a single country.
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