Sociological Forum

, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 55-82

First online:

Home Ownership, Social Insurance, and the Welfare State

  • Dalton ConleyAffiliated withCentre for Advanced Social Science Research, New York University Email author 
  • , Brian GiffordAffiliated withUniversity of California

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Home ownership has potentially significant consequences for welfare state policy. High owner-occupancy rates may function as private insurance where social spending is low (a substitution effect). Alternatively, state income redistribution policies could raise the number of home owners (an income effect). Cross-national time-series data show that social spending is negatively related to home ownership, and mediates the positive relationship between income inequality and owner-occupancy rates. This suggests that owner-occupancy acts as a form of social insurance over the life course. Future welfare state researchers should consider the issue of home ownership in analyses of inequality and the social safety net.

Key Words

home ownership welfare income policy