Growing Up and Growing Old in Scotland: housing transitions and changing living arrangements for young and older adults, 1991-2011

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: School of Geography and Geosciences

Abstract

The past few decades have seen significant demographic, social and economic changes that have resulted in increased diversity across individual lifecourses and housing careers. Rising divorce rates, delays in family formation, smaller families, re-partnering and longer healthy life expectancy have all undermined traditional notions of (married) stability and (mortgaged) home ownership for the greater part of adult life. Further, the recent economic downturn has compounded some of these changes, having a disproportionate impact on first time home buyers and contributing to an 'extended' transition from youth to adulthood. As young adults face difficulties in establishing independent living arrangements, so older adults are seen to be under-occupying larger family housing, leading to suggestions that the housing crisis in the UK is more about how the generations share housing than about housing supply. Although there is growing evidence of changes in age-related housing consumption from different parts of the developed world, there is need for a better understanding of what is driving these changes. This is especially so in relation to Scotland, which has a more rapidly ageing population, a different housing stock and a distinctive policy environment compared with the rest of the UK but is less frequently the focus of academic research. The aim of our study is to address this research gap by investigating the dimensions and determinants of housing transitions and changes in living arrangements for young and older adults in Scotland between 1991 and 2011.
The research will use data from Scottish censuses and the Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS), a linked set of anonymised individual records, to answer three main research questions: (i) How have housing transitions and the living arrangements of young and older adults in Scotland changed between 1991 and 2011?; (ii) What are the key determinants (individual and contextual) of housing transitions and living arrangements? And have these changed over time? (iii) Has social and geographical polarisation in housing transitions and living arrangements of young and older adults increased over time?
Three complementary research strategies will be used to answer these questions. First, aggregate census data from 1991, 2001 and 2011 will be analysed to provide an overview of change. Of particular interest is whether there is an increased likelihood of young adults (aged 16-29) in Scotland staying longer with parents and/or entering the housing market at a later age, and of older adults (aged 55-69) 'under-occupying' housing. For both age groups, we will ascertain whether there has been a rise in living in complex households, either multi-generational and/or with unrelated others. Secondly, an integrated macro-micro modelling approach and data from the SLS will be used to identify the main determinants of change. A set of models predicting living arrangements (or housing status) at the end of the decade will include variables on individual characteristics, living arrangements (or housing status), and contextual factors - all measured at the start of the decade. Intervening events (e.g. births, deaths or illness) will also be accounted for. Comparing results for 1991-2001 with those for 2001-2011 will provide evidence on the main determinants of decadal change and whether the relative importance of these has altered over time. Lastly, we will refine these models and combine the samples for the two decades to investigate whether differences between (a) the most advantaged and disadvantaged social groups, and (b) local areas in Scotland, have widened over time. The findings will enhance the evidence base for policy development. The study will be the first on Scotland to analyse housing transitions and changing living arrangement for young and older adults within a common analytical framework. It will also be amongst the first to use the latest data from the 2011 census.

Planned Impact

Significant changes in the living arrangements and housing transitions of young and older adults have been observed in many parts of the developed world over the past two decades. Recent reports in the UK suggest that, while young adults have become 'generation' rent, older adults are 'under-occupying' much needed family housing and increasingly reluctant to move into institutional care, contributing to a crisis in the housing market. This study will engage with debates about changing lifecourses and intergenerational justice, and contribute new evidence on the dimensions and determinants of these changes in Scotland. The findings will benefit an interdisciplinary audience of social scientists with research interests in population change, housing, youth studies and gerontology. This will be the first study on Scotland to provide a systematic analysis of the changing living arrangements and housing transitions for younger and older adults within a common analytical framework; and one of the first to examine the latest evidence from the 2011 census. The results will therefore be of additional benefit to scholars seeking to understand national or subnational variation in contemporary lifecourse changes across Europe, as well as showcasing the potential of the Scottish Longitudinal Study as a data source to researchers with interests in longitudinal data analysis.
The results of the project will also be communicated to a wider non-academic audience. Dissemination will include conference and seminar presentations, briefing meetings, reports and working papers, as well as papers in academic journals. By contributing to the evidence base for policy development and ensuring that the findings are widely disseminated, a variety of potential users in national and local government, private and professional organisations with interests in housing, and housing charities will also benefit from the project. The project has already attracted support from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) and an analytical report on changing household composition in Scotland based on the project findings will be published by NRS in a Census Reports series.
One of the ambitions of the research team is to bring together academic and non-academic stakeholders and promote dialogue among a variety of groups with interests in population change and housing across the lifecourse. The project will be conducted under the auspices of the ESRC Centre for Population Change (CPC), which already has active networks linking population researchers, data providers and policy makers. The research team is based in the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews, which also includes the Centre for Housing Research (CHR). Colleagues at CHR have established networks of housing researchers, national and local government policy makers and housing providers. The team is therefore well placed to use these contacts to promote dialogue between diverse groups whose professional paths rarely cross. As well as engaging with diverse stakeholders at different stages throughout the research, the team will organise a 2-day workshop towards the end of the project with invited participants from across the spectrum of CPC and CHR interest groups. It is hoped that the creation of new networks of contact will be one of the lasting legacies of the project.
 
Description The study quantified housing transitions and changing living arrangements among younger and older adults in Scotland across two decades. The majority of young adults had moved out of the parental home by the end of each decade, whereas only a minority of older adults moved house in the same period. We found a moderate increase in residential immobility for both groups, with more young adults living with their parents and fewer older adults moving house in the 2000s compared with the 1990s. We showed that young women were twice as likely as young men to leave the parental home but no less likely to become homeowners in the 2000s. While those with tertiary education and in employment were the most likely group to become homeowners, the advantage of being in professional/managerial employment weakened over time. Most importantly, parental background played a larger role in the 2000s, indicating that parental resources have become increasingly important for getting onto the property ladder. A greater sensitivity to prices in local housing markets also emerges in the 2000s, with prospective buyers in middle-range markets least likely to fulfil their aspirations. We found no evidence, however, that levels of youth unemployment in the local authority of residence influenced the likelihood of either moving out of the parental home or becoming a homeowner. For older adults, we found an emerging gender difference in the propensity to move house as women became less likely than men to change residence in the 2000s. Among the minority of older adults who did move, women were also less likely than men to move to a larger house. We showed that household changes are important prompts to housing size adjustments. The end of marital union (through separation/ divorce or widowhood) and all children leaving home are important determinants of downsizing, whereas retirement is no longer associated with either downsizing or upsizing by the 2000s. Older adults living in smaller urban areas are least likely to move house, but we found no evidence that older movers respond to prices in local housing markets. These selected findings are for two different age groups but they indicate a relationship that could have important implications for the Scottish housing system. The increasing propensity of young adults to stay in the parental home for longer, combined with the greater residential immobility of older adults whose children are living with them, suggests a decreasing likelihood of older people downsizing and releasing family housing onto the market. The study thus lays the groundwork for further research into inter-generational interdependencies in the Scottish housing market. In addition, we contributed to the improvement of the Scottish Longitudinal Study dataset by detecting a systematic error in a migration variable that has now been corrected.
Exploitation Route We will take forward our academic impact through future publications and presentations, as part of our dissemination strategy to reach a wide interdisciplinary audience. By stimulating debate about the inter-relationships between population change and housing, we will contribute to the development of a future research agenda in an area that is currently under-researched. The findings enhance the evidence base for policy development in Scotland and are thus relevant for policy-makers and other stakeholders interested in young people's access to housing and housing size adjustments at older ages, especially in relation to social equity, social mobility and inter-generational justice agendas. We will continue to engage with representatives of the Scottish Government, Scottish Local Authorities and national statistical offices, who have already shown interest in the findings. This is ongoing.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.cpc.ac.uk/publications/cpc_briefing_papers.php
 
Description Presentation of our study to academic audiences has already had an impact, with other researchers adopting our research design to investigate downsizing among older adults in England. Our working paper providing a critical overview of previous academic research on the relationships between population change and housing is continuing to stimulate debate between population and housing researchers. Our detection of a systematic error in one variable in the Scottish Longitudinal Study led to the improvement of that data set for future researchers. We also presented our methodology and selected findings to a mixed academic and non-academic audience at a UK-LS Roadshow in Glasgow to encourage other potential users of the data. Scottish Government, Local Authorities in Scotland, the National Records of Scotland and the Office of National Statistics have all shown interest in our findings. Representatives participated in a workshop we organised in June 2015. The feedback after the event was very positive, with all evaluations - including those from policy makers/ practitioners - indicating that participants will use the information/ideas in their own work, pass the information/ideas on to colleagues, and that they valued the connections made at the workshop. The networking facilitated by the workshop is continuing to have an impact among non-academic stakeholders, especially ONS and NRS, through ongoing dialogue. The study contributes to policy and practice by strengthening the evidence base showing growing inequalities in housing among both younger and older adults in the UK. Its main findings, summarised in two CPC briefing papers, continue to be downloaded from the Centre of Population Change website. In 2017, publicity for the study led to an invited chapter in "Scotland's Population. The Register General's Annual Review 2016" and an invited seminar presented to Scottish Government staff at Victoria Quay in Edinburgh.
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Elspeth Graham was an invited member of the Scottish Science Advisory Council Working Group on Ageing and contributed to a report for the Scottish Government on "Reaction to the UK Government Office for Science Foresight report "Future of an Ageing Population""
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Presentation at UK LS Roadshow 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation at the UK LS Roadshow in Glasgow to showcase the use of data from the UK longitudinal studies in research. The audience were potential users of the UK LS, including academics and postgraduates from a range of disciplines, and researchers from governments organisations and the NHS.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Seminar presentation to Scottish Government staff 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation of research evidence on "Household Changes and Housing in Scotland", with a focus on the period since 1990. The purpose was to present and discuss the main findings of the research study to Scottish Government staff, including researchers and policy-makers. The seminar was held in November 2017 at the Scottish Government headquarters and around 30 staff members attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop on UK Population Change and Housing across the Life Course 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The workshop, organised by the project team, successfully stimulated exchange of information and discussion of ideas - including policy implications - on the links between population change and the UK housing system.

Feedback indicated that participants thought that their own work (academic and policy-related) would be influenced by the discussions. New contacts were made, which may lead to future collaborations and consultations (e.g. between the newly-formed housing group at ONS and population/housing researchers at the University of St Andrews.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.cpc.ac.uk/events/?action=story&id=413
 
Description knowledge exchange (National Records of Scotland) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk gave rise to discussion of the use of census data for studying living arrangements and housing transitions, and the potential for new classifications as alternatives to the standard definitions used in published tables.

Representatives from the National Records of Scotland indicated that they would investigate the use of our classifications with the 2011 Census data for Scotland.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014