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      Home-ownership as a social norm and positional good: Subjective wellbeing evidence from panel data

      1 , 1 , 2

      Urban Studies

      SAGE Publications

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          Abstract

          Much attention has been devoted to examining the absolute benefits of home-ownership (e.g. security and autonomy). This paper, by contrast, is concerned with conceptualising and testing the relative benefits of home-ownership; those benefits that depend on an individual’s status in society. Home-ownership has previously been analysed as a social norm, implying that the relative benefits (costs) associated with being an owner (renter) are positively related to relevant others’ home-ownership values. The theoretical contribution of this paper is to additionally conceptualise home-ownership as a positional good, implying that the status of both home-owners and renters is negatively related to relevant others’ home-ownership consumption.

          The empirical contribution of this paper is to quantitatively test for these relative benefits in terms of subjective wellbeing. We run fixed effects regressions on three waves of the British Household Panel Study. We find that (1) a strengthening of relevant others’ home-ownership values is associated with increases (decreases) in the subjective wellbeing of home-owners (renters), and (2) an increase in relevant others’ home-ownership consumption decreases the life satisfaction of owners but has no effect for renters. Overall our findings suggest that (1) the relative benefits of home-ownership are both statistically significant and of a meaningful magnitude, and (2) home-ownership is likely to be both a social norm and a positional good. Without explicitly recognising these relative benefits, policymakers risk overestimating the contribution of home-ownership to societal wellbeing.

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          Most cited references 25

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          Income inequality and population health: a review and explanation of the evidence.

          Whether or not the scale of a society's income inequality is a determinant of population health is still regarded as a controversial issue. We decided to review the evidence and see if we could find a consistent interpretation of both the positive and negative findings. We identified 168 analyses in 155 papers reporting research findings on the association between income distribution and population health, and classified them according to how far their findings supported the hypothesis that greater income differences are associated with lower standards of population health. Analyses in which all adjusted associations between greater income equality and higher standards of population health were statistically significant and positive were classified as "wholly supportive"; if none were significant and positive they were classified as "unsupportive"; and if some but not all were significant and supportive they were classified as "partially supportive". Of those classified as either wholly supportive or unsupportive, a large majority (70 per cent) suggest that health is less good in societies where income differences are bigger. There were substantial differences in the proportion of supportive findings according to whether inequality was measured in large or small areas. We suggest that the studies of income inequality are more supportive in large areas because in that context income inequality serves as a measure of the scale of social stratification, or how hierarchical a society is. We suggest three explanations for the unsupportive findings reported by a minority of studies. First, many studies measured inequality in areas too small to reflect the scale of social class differences in a society; second, a number of studies controlled for factors which, rather than being genuine confounders, are likely either to mediate between class and health or to be other reflections of the scale of social stratification; and third, the international relationship was temporarily lost (in all but the youngest age groups) during the decade from the mid-1980s when income differences were widening particularly rapidly in a number of countries. We finish by discussing possible objections to our interpretation of the findings.
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            The meaning of things

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              Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Urban Studies
                Urban Studies
                SAGE Publications
                0042-0980
                1360-063X
                May 2018
                March 08 2017
                May 2018
                : 55
                : 6
                : 1290-1312
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of Reading, UK
                [2 ]University College London, UK
                Article
                10.1177/0042098017695478
                © 2018

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