Housing Dreams of Young Families – Determinants and Reasons for Moving into a Family Home across Social Classes

Anna Stenpaß, University of Hamburg
Stefanie Kley, University of Hamburg

It is a robust finding that changes to family composition, such as partnership formation, marriage, and childbirth, are associated with residential mobility as well as first-time home-ownership. This literature suggests that moves are undertaken to meet (anticipated) needs for more housing space and to fulfil a desire for a child-friendly environment. A proper family home is for many a self-owned house with a private garden in a residential area, reflecting a widespread belief that children should grow up in quiet surroundings and not within the hustle and bustle of city centres. This article asks the questions (1) for which young families the dream of moving into a “family home” comes true, and (2) whether the determinants and reasons for moving vary systematically between social classes.

The analyses are based on representative household data of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSOEP, 2000 – 2014). The probability of moving into a house for one or two families is estimated longitudinally and in comparison between social classes. Additionally, the findings are enriched with findings from in-depth interviews with long commuters.

The results show that social class matters for moving into a family home. Home-ownership and having children are the most important triggers for moving into a family home in all social classes, but other reasons for moving vary. Overcoming a bad location and high costs of the current dwelling are important for both the low and middle classes, but middle class members report improvements of the dwelling and area significantly more often compared to low class members. Moving into a family home worsens the transport link in middle and high classes, and the average commute increases markedly in all social classes, especially in the lower class.

The findings shed light on an under-researched dimension of social inequality between families and the commuting workforce.


It is a robust finding that changes to family composition, such as partnership formation, marriage, and childbirth, are associated with residential mobility (Kulu, 2008) as well as first-time home-ownership (Mulder and Wagner, 2001). This literature suggests that moves are undertaken to meet (anticipated) needs for more housing space and to fulfil a desire for a child-friendly environment. A proper family home is for many a self-owned house with a private garden in a residential area, reflecting a widespread belief that children should grow up in quiet surroundings and not within the hustle and bustle of city centres (Matthews et al., 2000). The fulfilment of such housing dreams is largely dependent on a couple’s financial resources, housing supply, and other societal conditions, like the housing market and government aid. This contribution asks the questions (1) for which young families the dream of moving to a “family home” comes true, and (2) whether the determinants and reasons for moving vary systematically between social classes.

The supply of houses for one or two families has been grown for decades in many European countries, but the great recession starting in 2008 strongly affected some European housing markets (Hilbers et al., 2008). In Germany, home-ownership rates are still low, and the housing markets were hardly touched by the crises. Moreover, government aid is provided for building or buying a house and for commuting. Therefore, Germany is well suited to study the impact of family wealth on housing transitions, because in comparison to more liberal housing markets low effects can be expected, leading to “conservative” measures.

This study makes use of representative household data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (GSOEP; http://www.diw.de/en/soep ) and covers the years 2000 – 2014. Exclusively households not living in a family home at beginning of observation were selected, whereas a “family home” is defined as single family house or terraced house for one or two families. We concentrate on respondents in childbearing age and families with dependent children: Women are at most 45 years at the beginning of observation; observation ends beyond 59 years of age (men and women); observation ends when youngest child exceeds 18 years of age. Households need to have at least two consecutive years of observation. These criteria result in N ≈ 9,000 persons and 44,000 person-years. Additionally we make use of a pairfam (http://www.pairfam.de/en/) satellite study we conducted in 2016, providing in-depth interviews with long commuters.

The results are presented in four steps. First, the development of housing supply and differences between social groups'' housing consumption is described statistically. Second, the determinants of the probability of moving into a family home are estimated with logistic regression on basis of discrete time event history analysis. Third, the effects of reasons for moving on the probability of moving into a family home are estimated with fixed effects logistic regression, and the findings are enriched and illustrated with data from our in-depth pairfam-study. Lastly, movers’ perceived improvements and worsenings after moving into a family home by class are estimated, again with discrete-time event history analysis.

The results show that the probability of moving into a family home increases significantly with social class also in Germany. Among the motives, overcoming a bad location and high costs of the current dwelling are exclusively important in the low and middle classes, but improvements of the dwelling and area are reported more often by middle class members compared to low class members. Moving into a family home worsens the transport link in middle and high classes, and the average commute increases markedly for both, men and women. This increase is most pronounced in the lower class, although lower class members do not “complain” about worsened transportation link.

This contribution sheds more light on housing as an important dimension of social inequality between families and the commuting workforce that is relevant beyond the German case.

References

Hilbers, Paul, Hoffmaister, Alexander, W., Angana Banerji, and Haiyan Shi. 2008: Housing Price Developments in Europe: A Comparison. International Monetary Fund 211.

Kulu, Hill. 2008: Fertility and Spatial Mobility in the Life Course: Evidence from Austria. Environment and Planning A, 40(3): 632–52.

Matthews, Hugh, Mark Taylor, Kenneth Sherwood, Faith Tucker, and Melanie Limb. 2000: Growing-up in the countryside: Children and the rural idyll. Journal of Rural Studies, 16(2): 141–53.

Mulder, Clara H., and Michael Wagner. 2001: The Connection s between Family Formation and First-time Home Ownership in the Context of West Germany and the Netherlands. European Journal of Population, 17(2): 137–64.

Presented in Session 1221: Internal Migration and Urbanization