A room with a view or a room of one's own? Housing and social stratification

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This study attempts to understand the role that housing plays in the system of social stratification. First, it generates a model of how housing outcomes are stratified along dimensions of socioeconomic status and race. Second, it asks what role housing conditions play in the system of educational stratification of offspring. Using two-generational data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this paper demonstrates that home ownership is predicted by family income and race and that this indicator has a significant effect in predicting the educational attainment of offspring. Household crowding is also related to income and race and also affects the educational attainment of offspring. Meanwhile, housing quality - as measured by the physical condition of the unit - is not related to income or race and has no effect on educational attainment. Of particular note is that when socioeconomic status and housing conditions are held constant, African-Americans demonstrate more than a half-grade advantage over their non-black counterparts in years of completed schooling. In conclusion, the paper argues that housing matters not only for the immediate well-being of families, but also for the life-chances of the subsequent generation, and should be a standard variable in the conception of class background.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-280
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Forum
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2001
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Crowding
  • Education
  • Home ownership
  • Housing
  • Racial inequality
  • Stratification


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