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Desire to climb property ladder highlights class divisions

25.10.2006
The desire to move up the housing ladder remains very much a middle class pursuit, according to new research.

Despite the nation's seeming obsession with property, the class system is alive and well when it comes to moving house. The research from Sheffield Hallam University, led by Professor Chris Allen, and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) found that attitudes towards climbing the housing ladder were more influenced by social class background than by any other factor.

Researchers identified two groups of household types in the study, which centred on a regeneration neighbourhood of Liverpool. These were dubbed ‘located’ and ‘cosmopolitan’.

Located residents were predominantly working class, and their main consideration was to get from day to day. Housing was seen as having a functional purpose rather than as a source of opportunity.

Professor Chris Allen said: "A typical response was that the number of bedrooms in a house should equate to the number of people living in it. They talked about how they would only move if their house was too large or too small.

“Although happy with their lot, located, or working class residents saw the choice of where to live as only between the suburban ideal, which they could not have, and nothing else. They did not consider a strategic move to climb the housing ladder and reach suburbia eventually.

“This shows just how successful middle class residents have been at imposing their tastes when it comes to the places we live in.” Professor Allen continued: “In other words, located residents only desired what was for 'other people' rather than 'the likes of them', so they only valued what they could not have, and this worsened their chances of moving up. Thus class divisions between the working class and middle classes are comfortable maintained."

The cosmopolitans were typically middle class, educated to a higher level and paid enough to be able to see beyond the need to survive from day to day. They saw living in a regeneration area as a temporary measure before trading up.

Professor Allen said: “They liked the area, but were only ‘here for now’. They were able to step back a bit and judge the place from a distance. And they valued it because of its location in terms of the city centre, and closeness to such places as restaurants and entertainment venues, even if parts of it were 'scruffy'."

Cosmopolitans had a habit of watching TV programmes about property renovation and recognised how run-down properties and a blighted landscape could provide regeneration opportunities.

But while the cosmopolitans had an eye on the future value of property they were not particularly involved in their community or attached to it. By contrast the located residents shared a stronger sense of community reinforced by lifelong friendships and extended families.

Sheffield Hallam University is a major force for expertise on social and economic issues in the UK Our expertise in social issues, regeneration and how society treats and looks after all types of people, makes a difference.

Suzanne Lightfoot | alfa
Further information:
http://www.shu.ac.uk

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