Social polarisation and housing careers

Social polarisation and housing careers

Exploring the interrelationship of labour and housing markets in Australia

Ian Winter and Wendy Stone

Working Paper No. 13 — March 1998

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Since the turn of the twentieth century, the institutional design of the ‘wage earners welfare state’ in Australia has included broad access to, and state subsidies for, home ownership (Castles 1997). Private saving for home ownership over the life course led to low housing costs in retirement and an increased likelihood of avoiding poverty (Henderson et al. 1970). Reduced poverty in retirement and the broad social base to home ownership in Australia have, overall, meant greater economic equality (Whiteford and Kennedy 1995). Thus, home ownership has ameliorated inequalities arising from the labour market. Through the 1980s and 1990s, however, significant social and demographic changes have prompted debate about an emerging social polarisation (Saunders 1994). This paper draws upon data, from a 1996 survey of a national random sample of 25–70 year olds, to examine access to home ownership in the context of changing labour market opportunities. By exploring the interrelationship of labour and housing markets, the paper investigates whether home ownership in Australia continues to play a role in social redistribution.

Authors and Acknowledgements

For their constructive comments on earlier versions of this paper, thanks are due to Trevor Batrouney and Harry McGurk of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and participants in the urban sociology stream of the 1997 Australian Sociological Association Conference, University of Wollongong.

A version of this paper will be included in a memorial volume dedicated to the late Professor Chris Maher, to be published in 1998 by Monash University.

Publication details

Working Paper
No. 13
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, March 1998.
29 pp.
Suggested citation:

Winter, I., & Stone, W. (1998). Social polarisation and housing careers: Exploring the interrelationship of labour and housing markets in Australia (Working Paper No. 13). Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.

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