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‘Doing Deals on the House’ in a ‘Post-welfare’ Society: Evidence of Micro-Market Practices from Britain and the USA

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Helen Jarvis



This paper critically examines an observed shift towards a 'post-welfare' society, in which the home-as-investment is replacing by stealth the former protection of more comprehensive welfare state provision. Comparing Britain with the USA, the paper draws on biographies and resource inventories for a sample of 100 working families from five high-cost cities (London, Edinburgh, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland). Micro-market practices from this sample are presented in the form of vignettes to highlight the complex ways that housing consumption (such as use of a spare room) intersect with financial assets of the home (equity withdrawn to spend on family care). While some of these reported practices could be adopted by tenants as well as owner occupiers, the suggestion is that buying a first home and climbing the housing ladder (however risky in terms of mortgage finance) now assumes the imperative of future welfare provision. By exposing the multiple ways in which households 'spend' their housing assets on needs as well as wants, this paper points to the hidden costs for individual households (in time, money, discomfort, anxiety and ill-health) of a housing-led privatisation of welfare.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jarvis H

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Housing Studies

Year: 2008

Volume: 23

Issue: 2

Pages: 213-231

ISSN (print): 0267-3037

ISSN (electronic): 1466-1810

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/02673030801893149


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