The Housing Situation of Young Couples in Norway: Variations By Immigration Background

Jennifer A. Holland, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Lars Dommermuth, Research Dep., Statistics Norway
Kenneth Aarskaug Wiik, Research Dep., Statistics Norway

We investigate differences in the standard of housing for couples first moving in together, comparing those with and without immigrant backgrounds. We situate our study in Norway, a country with a relatively short history of migration, but with growing shares of immigrants and their descendants. The analysis is based on Norwegian longitudinal register data. We identified all couples entering their first coresidential opposite sex unions between 2006 and 2015 in the ten largest municipalities in Norway. We differentiate between majority-background couples, where both partners were born in Norway to Norwegian born parents, couples where both partners have an immigrant background, and mixed couples, where one partner has an immigrant background and the other a majority background. We give special attention to differences by immigrant generation status, distinguishing those couples with one or both partners born in Norway to parents born abroad, the so-called second generation. We consider whether these newly formed couples live independently and develop different measures for housing quality, including housing type, housing size (square meters and number of rooms) and housing tenure (homeowners or renting). In descriptive analyses we describe differences in housing quality by the couple immigrant background categories. We then conduct regression analyses, taking into account other background characteristics as age, union duration, marital status, education and income. Results from this study will shed light on an aspect of inequality often overlooked—the degree to which young couples have access to high quality housing as they start out together, and whether all couples, regardless of immigrant background status, have access to the same quality of housing.

Moving in together is a key life course transition for young couples. The ability to establish an independent household in a high-quality home is important for the stability of unions and the progression to marriage and parenthood (Mulder & Lauster 2010). However, not all couples have access to high quality, stable housing, and this may contribute to inequality in the stability of unions. Immigrants and their descendants are a growing share of European populations. While there is considerably diversity in the individual characteristics of these new Europeans, they may face a unique combination of challenges to securing high quality housing (Davidov & Weick 2011; McConnell & Redstone Akresh 2008).

We investigate differences in the standard of housing for couples first moving in together, comparing those with and without immigrant backgrounds. We situate our study in Norway, a country with a relatively short history of migration, but with growing shares of immigrants and their descendants. We consider majority-background couples, where both partners were born in Norway to Norwegian born parents, couples where both partners have an immigrant background, and mixed couples, where one partner has an immigrant background and the other a majority background. We give special attention to differences by immigrant generation status, differentiating those couples with one or both partners born in Norway to parents born abroad, the so-called second generation. We develop different indicators for housing quality. Results from this study will shed light on an aspect of inequality often overlooked—the degree to which young couples have access to high quality housing as they start out together, and whether all couples, regardless of immigrant background status, have access to the same quality of housing.

Data and methods

Data for this analysis come from Norwegian longitudinal register data. We identified all couples entering coresidential opposite sex unions between 2006 and 2015. As we focus on young couples entering their first unions, we included only couples where both partners were between the ages of 18 and 40 and excluded couples who were observed in unions in 2005 or individuals with children (from this or from a prior union). Due to these restrictions, we expect that for most individuals the captured union is the first coresidential union. In order to better account for differences in the geographic distribution of immigrants-background and majority couples and for geographic differences in housing stock, we limit our sample to couples living in the 10 largest municipalities in Norway. Our analytical sample includes more than 78.000 young couples.

We use information on the immigrant background of both members of the partnership and distinguish between five types of couples: couples where both partners have no immigrant background (65%); both partners are born abroad (18%); one partner is a born abroad and the other has no immigrant background (13%); one partner is of the second generation (born in Norway with one or both parents born abroad) and the other has no immigrant background (1.1%); and couples where both partners are of the second generation or one partner is of the second generation and one partner was born abroad (2%).

We distinguish couples by age and account for marital status at the time of first co-residence, given that norms for the quality of homes for cohabiting versus married couples may differ. Additionally, we disaggregate couples by their highest level of education and income.

Our outcomes of interest include the likelihood of couples living independently and the nature and quality of couples’ housing. From the household register we identify whether the couple is living independently, with relatives or with other adults. We also link our couple-level data to the Norwegian housing register, which has information on housing type, housing size and, for a subsample of couples forming unions in 2015, housing tenure.

In descriptive analyses, we compare the proportion of couples living independently versus living with parents and other family members or other adults, the proportion of couples living in different housing types, the average size and number of rooms in the home, and housing tenure by each of the five couple immigrant background categories.

We then conduct regression analyses, accounting also for residence in the 3 major cities and year of union formation. Depending on the nature of the dependent variable, we conduct logistic (housing tenure), multinomial logistic (independent or shared living; type of housing; number of rooms) or ordinary least squares regression (square meters).

References

Davidov, E., & Weick, S. (2011). Transition to Homeownership Among Immigrant Groups and Natives in West Germany, 1984–2008. Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 9(4), 393–415.

McConnell, E. D., & Redstone Akresh, I. (2008). Through the Front Door: The Housing Outcomes of New Lawful Immigrants. International Migration Review, 42(1), 134–162.

Mulder, C. H., & Lauster, N. T. (2010). Housing and Family: An Introduction. Housing Studies, 25(4), 433–440.

Presented in Session 1086: International Migration and Migrant Populations