Housing inequality

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Aerial view of a slum in a suburb of Manila, Philippines.

Housing inequality is the difference in the quality of housing that exists within a given society. It is a form of economic inequality. Housing is a basic need for health and education are. Housing inequality should be a government concern. It can have adverse consequences for the options available to an individual or family.[1] The term may apply regionally across a geographic space, temporally between one generation and the next, or culturally between groups of different racial or social backgrounds.[2] Housing inequality is directly related to concepts of racial inequality, social inequality, income inequality, and wealth inequality. Also, it is the result of some different factors including natural market forces, housing discrimination, and housing segregation.

Housing inequality is also often linked to discussions of poverty because it can be both a cause and an effect of poverty.[3] Residential inequality is especially relevant to studies of poverty when considering Amartya Sen’s definition of poverty as "the deprivation of core capabilities.[4]

Relation to economic inequality[edit]

Housing inequality is a type of economic inequality. Disparities in Housing explain variations in the conversion of income into human capabilities over differing social climates.[5] Put more simply; income does not always translate to desirable outcomes like healthcare, education, and happiness. The quality of one's housing is one factor that determines if such capabilities are readily available to an individual.[6] The economist and philosopher Amartya Sen reasons that a person's available freedoms, or capabilities, are significant indicators of the kind of life one values or has reason to value.[7] As economic equality varies between economic systems, historical periods, societies so do the housing inequality.

The major factor of housing inequality is economic inequality. Theses two different social inequality are the vicious circle to each other. Housing equality is one of the results of economic(income, wealth) inequality, but not 100 percent, it's mixed inequality by several inequalities. Economic Inequality is the beginning factor of Housing inequality. People live in different locations depends on how much rent or money they can afford. Later on, racism inequality become next factor of housing inequality.

Relation to social inequality[edit]

Social inequality is the differentiation preference of access of social goods in the society brought about by power, religion, kinship, prestige, race, ethnicity, gender, age, and class. The social rights include labor market, the source of income, health care, and freedom of speech, education, political representation, and participation. The difference in social classes brings about housing inequality.

Social inequality can be the factor or the result of housing inequality . Social inequality contains lots of inequality in it, such race, ethnicity, gender, age, and class in inequality. All of this factors contribute the the housing inequality. After the housing inequality form, it make all the factors the contributed to from bigger and bigger. It's like a sociology theory, functionalist, all the factors are each organ of our body, all of the factors need to be coordinate to each other then the body can keep healthy.


The sociologist John Yinger[8] explains urban residential inequality as a result of natural housing market forces. Yinger[9] reasons that, all else being equal, housing becomes relatively more expensive as it grows closer to work sites. Because poorer families often cannot afford to pay transportation costs they may be forced to live in inner-city locations closer to employment opportunities. Consequently, in order to win the spatial competition for housing near work sites, lower-income families must compensate for high priced location by accepting smaller housing, lower quality housing, or both.[10] Ultimately these market forces are subject to other socio-economic factors as no single cause can explain housing inequality. In the United States, Thomas Shapiro and Jessica Kenty-Drane[11] point to the wealth gaps between African Americans and other groups in the United States as likely causes of the housing disparity between African Americans and the rest of America. The pair contends that obstacles exist that have prevented blacks from accumulating wealth. Historical factors such as slavery and racial segregation, the two argue, have constrained African Americans from securing and accumulating assets.[12] As a result, African Americans have had a difficult time acquiring high quality housing. Yinger[13] also suggests that racial discrimination still plays a role in housing searches. According to Yinger,[14] black and Hispanic households must pay higher search costs, accept lower quality housing, and live in lower quality neighborhoods due to discrimination in the search process. One study[15] found that 20% of potential moves made by black households and 17% of potential moves made by Hispanic households were discouraged by existing discrimination within the housing search process.

Rural-Urban migration[edit]

People in the rural areas move to urban in search of better opportunities in life. They have no enough money to settle infancy estates and thus end up in places where rent and housing prices are lower. This leads to increase in total population and deteriorates the living standards of those areas and thus giving rise to the emergence of slums.

Human factors[edit]

1. In the booming countries such as China, Vietnam and so on, global investors invest everything such as manufacture industry because of low cost of labor in these countries. But some of investors invest real estate, which cause the price of local housing rise a lot, it turns out that it's too expensive for the local young people to afford for such high rent and price for buying a house in the downtown of city.

2. Race, location and wealth discrimination

In the United States, some communities are think as red zone, which can be think that they are going to have difficulties in applying loan form bank. Most of these communities lives black and Latino people because of the stereotype of the bank, they are the group lack of credit and could easily give up pay their bill on time. So it's racism in the beginning and become in to location and wealth discrimination because they start to judge you by where you live and how much wealth ( money) you have for borrowing the money from bank for purchasing house.

System factor[edit]

Capitalism is the system of most of countries nowadays, it cause the M shape income of our society, It affect housing inequality too. People earning less are not capable to purchase the house in down town and those who are earning from money without any labor force could buy a house easily, not to mention can get a loan from bank too!

Political factors[edit]

Government policies- the different policies that are present in the various countries influences the level of housing inequality. There are those policies which favor the rich and disadvantage the poor thus changing infrastructures available in an area. The housing system and the legal documents required to set up structures are a limiting factor to many people in a given country/ area.

Caste system[edit]

There are three systems of social stratification which are the caste system, estates system, and class system. Castes system usually ascribed to children during birth whereby one receives the same stratification as of that of their parents. The caste system has been linked to religion and thus permanent. For example, in a country like India and Philippines person born in a poor family, they are supposed to remain poor also in their entire lifetime. The houses they live and the states they come from are the visible indicators. The stratification may be superior or inferior and thus influences the occupation and the social roles assigned to a person. Estate system is a state or society where individuals in this state were required to work on their land to receive some services like military protection, proper houses. Communities ranked according to the nobility of their lords. The class system is about income inequality and socio-political status. People can move the classes when they increase their level of income or if they have authority. People are expected to maximize their innate abilities and possessions. Social stratification characteristics include its universal, social, ancient, it’s in diverse forms and also consequential.

The differences of causes in China and South east countries between United States[edit]

In United States, housing inequality is more relative to races and wealth discrimination, bank evaluate people where they live and how much money they have in the bank. The another reason is capitalism, it's system factors. In China, there are less racial issue because most of then are all Chinese. Human factors play a big role instead. Since it's a rising countries, but the policy and rules of real estate are not complete, so the investors begin taking these advantages to earn money from it. It cause the is a long period of Chinese real estate market are booming and attract more hot money to get into it. This a the real estate bubble. After Chinese government realized this phenomenon, they start to do the heavy tax on those who are trading the housing after bought within 3 months. The policy works and the price drop significantly, it force the the market back to the normal and reasonable price. But some people have already took benefit from it and escape already.


The most direct effect of residential inequality is an inequality of neighborhood amenities. Neighborhood amenities include factors such as the conditions of surrounding houses, the availability of social networks, the amount of air pollution, the crime rate, and the quality of local schools.[16] A neighborhood with a certain quality of amenities typically includes individual residences of corresponding quality. It follows then that those with lower incomes usually end up living in areas with poor amenities in order to win the spatial competition for housing. Apart from the intrinsic value of neighborhood amenities like the satisfaction derived from living in a nice area, many studies suggest that growing up in a high poverty neighborhood affects social and economic outcomes later in life.[17] Another way that the poor compete in the spatial competition for housing is by renting homes rather than buying them. This furthers the negative effects of housing inequality by restricting access to household wealth.[18] The effects of housing inequality are necessarily related to economic inequality as they greatly affect the freedoms available to an individual. The most of effects of housing inequality are vicious circle because those who are affected tend to pay more money in order to catch up or fix the problems caused by housing inequality, such as transportation fee, cost of getting resources and so on. All the effects are connected to each other and keep causing stronger economic problems for those who are under housing inequality.

The effect to our next generation[edit]

Since it's a vicious circle of housing inequality, our next generation could suffer more from it. They might have new credit point for the loan. But they were born and raise in the communities which are think as bad credit group( red zone). Most of them could even suffer from the inconvenient and lack of resource due to the housing inequality since they are young, it makes them are hard to climb up to higher class if they suffer from all of the problems. it can be even harder for them to get rid of housing inequality.

Social stratification[edit]

Social stratification is the hierarchical arrangement of society about social class, wealth, political influence. A society can be politically stratified based on authority and power, economically stratified based on income level and wealth, occupational stratification about one's occupation. Some roles for examples doctors, engineers, lawyers are highly ranked, and thus they give orders while the rest receive the orders. Those who are highly ranked have quality houses , they live in estates that are fancy, security guarded and have good sanitation. Those in lower classes most even live in the slums where there is no security, poor living standards, and low priced houses.

Social class mobility[edit]

Social class mobility could be low because of housing inequality. People who live or were born in the housing inequality, they have more problems to solve instead of making money. And what's more, Their children are less likely to get higher education in order to get into higher class in their futures. It could lower the social class mobility to our self and so does our next generation. The major problem of first generation is about earning money for family because of housing inequality. It's hard to get a loan from bank and lots of bills to pay. They just worry how to survive to tomorrow. But for our children, they deserve a better future, but under housing inequality, they need more time and money to get the same education as who are not suffering from housing inequality. These makes them give up their education easily but this is the only way they can get into higher class in the future. Not so many of people can make it.

Proposed remedies[edit]

There have been some plans suggested remedying the adverse effects of housing inequality. Such schemes include:

  • Subsidized housing- also referred to as affordable housing. The government economically sponsors individuals by increasing housing costs and expenses for people with low-income levels. Some of the subsidized housing include
    • Co-operative housing
    • Non-profit housing
    • Direct housing
    • Public housing
    • Rent supplements
  • Private sector housing- this are private land owners and landlords who work to remedy inadequate housing conditions. They provide safe, proper facilitated and healthy homes.
  • Fair lending enforcement - the lenders are expected not to discriminate the borrowers because of their family status, race, originality, gender, and color.
  • Scattered site housing- is a housing system where rent determination based on the income of the household. Before a family moves into the houses, they must meet the income requirements. There is an investigation on criminal background, credits, and rental history.[19] This system is popular in Philadelphia in the U.S.


The major problem of housing inequality is about the connection of urban area and downtown city. Transportation plays a big role in the topic. If public transportation is fully developed and constructed between urban and the downtown city, People are allowed to get in and out of the city easier, no matter about commuting or retrieving resources. The level of inequality should be less.

In some city, the fare of the public transportation depends on the travel distance, such as the MRT in Taipei, Taiwan. This increases the transportation expense for those who has been move to the urban area, what's more, they have less money to earn by investment because they are using all of money to pay their daily expense already. For example, the fare of New York city subway(MTA) is all the same no matter how long do you travel, it's all 2.75 USD. It's justice of Housing inequality.

Government policy[edit]

  1. Transparency of real estate market
    In nowadays, real estate market is over heated and the price of housing is raised to unreasonable level due to human and system factors. What government could do to ease the housing inequality is make the price of real estate more transparency, the market can fix the level of the price by itself by using this advantage, Untied States and most of European countries has it but not so many in Asia.
  2. Creating a rule of evaluating the loan
    There should be a standard operation procedure(SOP) for banks to evaluate the people who are trying to get loan from bank, not just by their color of skin or the money deposit in the bank, it should be the credit system. There is no certain rule for evaluating for this nowadays because it's different from bank to bank. Government has this responsibilities to create a law or set up certain policy to help banks to evaluate people who trying to get loan in correct way.
  3. Internet connection
    There are lots of people couldn't afford the price for purchasing a house a downtown even suburban area , they move very far in order to get cheaper house. The distance could cause more resources consuming such as transportation. If the internet can fully function and developed, the distance could be shorten, such as the education from internet, online library, databases. It could make up for children who live in far away of resources. What's more, if internet could get into the suburban area, people even can't do online shopping and makes the order to ship their house. They don't need to spend much more time to back and forth in order to get the resource, they could use this amount of time to earn more money instead.

Housing inequality in Kenya: case study of Kibera Slums[edit]

In the heart of Nairobi lies one of the biggest slums in the African continent, the Kibera slums. The Kibera slums are home to over 500,000 people as per the census report of 2009 by the Kenya population and housing census report. One of the big defining characters of the Kibera slums is the poverty rates and housing inequality. Most of the dwellers in this region earn less than $1 per day with the levels of unemployment being high. Additionally, the HIV/AIDS prevailing rates are high with the condition being the number one killed. Housing inequality presents itself in this region through the nearness of middle and upper-class estates in the area.

Housing inequality focuses on why a given group of people live in well-furnished homesteads with facilities such good supply of water and electricity while another group of individuals are living in grass and stick houses. The Kibera slums portray this picture with the dwellers of this slums languish in poverty while the surrounding is rich people who do not pay attention to the atrocities of the poor in their neighborhood. The Kibera slums surrounded by Runda, Loresho, and, Adams Arcade estates that rich people live. The dwellers of these wealthy estates enjoy high-class games such as golf while the individuals in Kibera are forced to engage in criminal activities such stealing to afford a non-balanced meal.

Causes of house inequality in Kibera[edit]

Kenya being a developing nation, characterized by high unemployment rates that have accumulated to poverty in the country. Most of the dwellers in Kibera are individuals that the society has failed to accommodate. In trying to help themselves into the society, people are forced to quit their rural homes and run to urban areas to find jobs. Those who migrate to Nairobi in such for the much needed "greener pastures" are forced to relocate to Kibera where the house rent is low as Ksh. 300 which is affordable to the lower class individuals. The houses in this Kibera made of sacks, polythene bags, and sticks compared to those bungalows in Runda.

The Kenyan government has failed in implementing systems that may brush away cases of housing inequality in the country. The Kenyan education systems is criticized for producing half-baked individuals who lack the necessary skills in the job market. Additionally, the job market has failed to absorb a significant number of graduates, hence a high rate of unemployment. In the process, these graduates are forced to seek accommodation in poor surrounding such as Kibera hence increasing the cases of people living in poor conditions.

Additionally, the government has failed to develop areas such as Kibera. Most of the infrastructures built geared towards rich people estates such as Runda and Loresho. Water supply, electricity, and roads are meant to reach the rich at the expense of the dwellers of Kibera. The inaccessibility of the much-needed infrastructure makes a society to be disregarded hence creating cases of housing inequality.

Reducing housing inequality[edit]

Despite the playing a significant role in promoting house inequality, the Kenyan government in collaboration with the international institution such as the UN to create equality in housing. In 2016, the Kenyan constructed over 1000 houses to accommodate a section of the Kibera dwellers.

Trends shaping the future of housing inequality[edit]

Increasing income inequality by causing a shift in income distribution thus the housing supply. Increasing share of land cost in home prices creating the change in housing demand. Increasing land use restrictions limits the supply of more affordable housing in richer states. The long-term impact of this trends includes a boost to homeownership, growth in house prices volatility, wealth creation, a share of the mortgage market by private sector and the growth in housing inequality.


While the focus of housing inequality has changed over time, contemporary international analyses tend to center on urbanization and the move to metropolitan areas. International housing inequality is largely characterized by urban disparities. A 2007 UN-HABITAT[20] report estimated that over one billion people worldwide lived in slums at the time, with that figure expected to double by 2030. In developing countries, housing inequality is increasingly caused by rural-to-urban migration, increasing urban poverty and inequality, insecure tenure, and globalization.[21] All of these factors contribute to the creation and continuation of slums in poorer areas of the world. One proposed solution to slums has been proposed in the form of slum upgrading.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Sen 2004 p. 61
  2. ^ Pryce 2009 p. 145
  3. ^ Yinger 2001p. 360
  4. ^ Sen 1999 p. 87
  5. ^ Sen 2004 p. 61
  6. ^ Yinger 2001 p. 367
  7. ^ Sen 1999 p. 18
  8. ^ Yinger 2001
  9. ^ Yinger 2001p. 360
  10. ^ Yinger 2001 p. 363
  11. ^ Shapiro 2005
  12. ^ Shapiro 2005 p. 176
  13. ^ Yinger 2001 p. 376
  14. ^ Yinger 1997 p. 23
  15. ^ Yinger 1997 p. 32
  16. ^ Yinger 2001 p. 362
  17. ^ Yinger 2001 p. 368
  18. ^ Krivo and Kaufman 2004
  19. ^ Stergiopoulos, Vicky; Hwang, Stephen W.; Gozdzik, Agnes; Nisenbaum, Rosane; Latimer, Eric; Rabouin, Daniel; Adair, Carol E.; Bourque, Jimmy; Connelly, Jo (2015-03-03). "Effect of Scattered-Site Housing Using Rent Supplements and Intensive Case Management on Housing Stability Among Homeless Adults With Mental Illness". JAMA. 313 (9). ISSN 0098-7484. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.1163. 
  20. ^ UN-HABITAT 2007
  21. ^ UN-HABITAT


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