Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Department of Social Sciences - Berlin Graduate School of Social Science

Tim Winke

Tim Winke

BGSS Generation 2012




Residential choice and the housing market

Selective mobility and residential inequality along social, ethnic and demographic lines in Germany



If and to where households relocate has long lasting effects on their life prospects (Chetty et al., 2016). To realize relocation preferences, households are constrained by the allocation and price of vacant housing, particularly in times of raising urban housing prices and rural shrinkage. However, the way dynamics in the housing market affect the residential choice is still under-studied and under-conceptionalized.

In three empirical studies, this dissertation examines inequalities in residential mobility along demographic, ethnic and social lines. For that, the largest German household panel, the German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) is linked to uniquely detailed neighbourhood and real estate information. The first study addresses the moving behaviour of elderly households. The resulting typology expands rigid classifications based on age, health status or distance moved, and highlights social inequalities in housing and neighbourhood outcomes. The second study analyses the formation of ethnic residential clustering. For that, listing and contact information from the largest real estate online portal are employed. Life course changes are similarly related to co-ethnic clustering for both natives and migrants. However, strong differences exist in times of increasing regional housing demand and supply. The third study examines how the effect of increasing housing prices on the residential behaviour of households is socially stratified. When housing prices increase in the direct neighbourhood, low-income households are less likely to move and sustain high levels of housing cost burden. Middle-income households are less affected. If low-income households move, they are more likely to move further out of cities to less privileged neighbourhoods.

The results highlight the interrelation of the residential choice and the housing market. If and where households find affordable housing largely depends on how much actors in the housing market value their resources. Dynamics in the housing market can therefore intensify social inequalities by concentrating and excluding disadvantaged households. Spatial disparities along ethnic, social and demographic lines impose individual and public costs and can foster social polarisation. The life course approach to mobility helps to understand the influence of life course events and structural factors on the residential choice. Insights from the residential segregation and socio-spatial literature are used to better incorporate the housing market in the decision where to move. Future research should further investigate how mechanisms in financing, construction, and allocation housing shape residential decisions and spatial processes such as segregation, urbanisation and rural shrinkage.