Links between housing and poverty over the life-course

Principal Investigator:

Mark Stephens (Heriot-Watt University)

TRP Co-Investigators:

Alasdair Rae, Ed Ferrari and Richard Dunning


June 2013 - August 2014

It is increasingly recognised that poverty is a dynamic phenomenon. For some households it may only be a transient experience, whilst for others it is recurrent or even persistent (Smith and Middleton, 2007). Nor is income poverty a simple phenomenon: it varies in depth and, according to circumstances, is manifested in different levels of deprivation (ibid.). Understanding poverty is therefore closely linked to the life-cycle, which reflects on the one hand earnings and other income sources (notably pensions), and on the other varying needs (e.g. dependent children).

Housing costs have a significant impact on raising poverty rates overall (Tunstall, et al, 2012). However, they have marked differences across the country; according to tenure, and over the life-course. Home-ownership in particular is also prone to price and sometimes interest rate volatility. Whilst private tenants can expect their rents to continue to rise over their life-times, owner-occupiers have traditionally expected to experience low housing costs in retirement having repaid their mortgage (Stephens, 2011).

The key aims of this project were:

  • to identify how househlds' housing circumstances relate to their experience and risk of poverty over the life-course; and
  • project how these circumstances may change by 2040.



Joseph Rowntree Foundation