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  • Author or Editor: Rory Coulter x
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Changing Lives, Places and Inequalities
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Deepening inequalities and wider processes of demographic, economic and social change are altering how people across the Global North move between homes and neighbourhoods over the lifespan.

This book presents a life course framework for understanding how the changing dynamics of people’s family, education, employment and health experiences are deeply intertwined with ongoing shifts in housing behaviour and residential pathways. Particular attention is paid to how these processes help to drive uneven patterns of population change within and across neighbourhoods and localities.

Integrating the latest research from multiple disciplines, the author shows how housing and life course dynamics are together reshaping 21st-century inequalities in ways that demand greater attention from scholars and public policymakers.

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This chapter moves beyond the micro-level focus of Chapters 3–6 by sketching how housing and life course dynamics interact to shape local processes of population change. The chapter begins by outlining a conceptual framework for understanding how residential behaviour – specifically the ways people make decisions to stay in, leave, enter or avoid particular residential locations – mediates how changes in life courses have aggregate impacts on the demographic and socio-economic composition of neighbourhoods and localities. The chapter’s remaining sections then unpack how the sorts of life course dynamics explored in the previous chapters reshape local populations by selectively altering (1) residential preferences and aspirations, (2) resources and restrictions, (3) life events and transitions, and (4) opportunities and constraints. Examples of each mechanism are explored in turn by focusing on how these influence changes in the ethnic and socio-economic composition of British neighbourhoods.

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Chapter 5 takes a fresh look at how the interactions between housing and labour market careers influence economic outcomes at both the micro- and macro-levels. It shows how the ways people engage with both the labour market and the housing system over the life span play a crucial role in determining the social distribution of resources. The chapter begins by using the life course conceptual toolbox to review how employment influences housing behaviour and housing system dynamics. It then inverts the focus to consider the role that housing resources, opportunities and constraints play in shaping employment careers and the broader operation of labour markets. Finally, the chapter examines how differential accumulation and use of housing wealth influences contemporary patterns of social and spatial inequality.

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This chapter examines the connections between housing careers and the contemporary dynamics of households and families. After sketching post-war population trends using ideas of a Second Demographic Transition, the chapter draws on Chapter 2’s life course conceptual toolbox to examine how these changes in households and families intersect with changes in housing career dynamics. The chapter focuses primarily on four family dynamics which, taken together, strongly drive aggregate patterns of household formation, dissolution and housing demand: (1) leaving the parental home and entering the housing system, (2) partnership formation, (3) fertility and (4) relationship dissolution. The relevance of housing career dynamics to each of these processes is explored in detail through a review of existing evidence supplemented with small portions of new empirical analysis of British data.

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The COVID-19 pandemic brought the importance of housing for health to the forefront of public debates about contemporary inequalities. This chapter uses Chapter 2’s life course conceptual toolbox to synthesise what we know about how housing careers interact with three crucial dimensions of health: (1) physical health and disability, (2) mental health and psychological well-being, and (3) health-related caring practices. The chapter argues that a life span perspective provides the most powerful way to understand the multifaceted interactions between housing and health in 21st-century Global North societies.

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This chapter uses Chapter 2’s life course conceptual toolbox to examine the two-way connections between education and housing dynamics. It begins by arguing that housing and educational careers are deeply interwoven in ways that tend to deepen social and spatial inequalities. Next, the chapter proceeds to discuss how processes of learning and training interact with two aspects of residential behaviour: (1) patterns of longer-distance migration and decisions about where to live, on the one hand, and (2) domestic living arrangements, housing tenure transitions and neighbourhood selection on the other. Overall, the chapter demonstrates that the connections between education and housing are not confined to young people but rather span the entirety of adulthood.

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Chapter 2 lays the conceptual foundations for the rest of the book. It begins by reviewing three existing frameworks for conceptualising how people move through housing systems over the life span: (1) traditional notions of housing careers, (2) Beer and Faulkner’s (2011) housing transitions approach, and (3) Clapham’s (2005) housing pathways metaphor. It outlines the strengths and weaknesses of each approach before explaining how a modern life course framework provides a powerful way to conceptualise how people move between homes and neighbourhoods as their lives unfold. The chapter then develops this life course framework more fully by outlining twelve conceptual tools for housing analysis that map onto Glen Elder’s five canonical life course principles. Each conceptual tool is then briefly summarised before the remaining chapters apply them to integrate and synthesise what is known about housing and life course dynamics in the 21st century.

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Chapter 8 summarises how the book’s life course framework can be used to further our understanding of contemporary housing careers and their links to changing lives, places and inequalities. The chapter starts by recapping the key features of the life course perspective. It then reviews how the life course conceptual tools developed in Chapter 2 can be applied to integrate and synthesise what we know about housing and life course dynamics. Future applications of the twelve tools are then sketched before the chapter concludes with ten general guidelines about how best to apply life course insights to research, policy deliberations and simply when thinking about or discussing housing. This section is designed to be useful to anyone interested in understanding the social dimensions of contemporary housing issues.

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This chapter explains why a new life course perspective on housing is needed. It begins by outlining the many functions housing plays within people’s lives; from satisfying basic biophysical needs through to providing a site for identity construction. Next, the chapter sketches how four constellations of macro-level forces – economic processes, demographic change, public policies and cultural trends – interact to drive institutionally mediated shifts in housing behaviours over time. The chapter argues that these macro-level forces change housing careers through their effects on four ‘proximate determinants’ of residential behaviour. These four proximate determinants are (1) aspirations and preferences, (2) resources and restrictions, (3) events and transitions, and (4) housing-related opportunities and constraints. The chapter concludes by outlining the rest of the book’s contents and its overarching structure.

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