The Socioeconomic, Demographic, and Political Effects of Housing in Comparative Perspective

Jane R. Zavisca, Theodore P. Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Few sociologists treat housing as a key independent variable, despite the emergence of disparate bodies of research analyzing how housing affects outcomes that traditionally interest sociologists. Scholars across the social sciences have proposed and tested mechanisms whereby housing could shape subjective well-being, socioeconomic status, demography, and politics. We review the evidence for causal effects across these domains. Next, we make recommendations for research designs to advance this literature. Most studies only test effects of homeownership, and most are focused on the United States and Western Europe. The evidence for causation is often weak, although studies increasingly employ complex techniques for identifying effects. Throughout, we emphasize studies beyond the United States, and we conclude by discussing distinctive insights yielded by comparative research. We advocate for a comparative perspective and more expansive conceptualization of housing status as a means to build theory and evidence regarding the conditions under which housing exerts effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)347-367
Number of pages21
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - Jul 30 2016


  • Causation
  • Homeownership
  • Housing
  • Stratification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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