Distributive and poverty-reducing effects of in-kind housing benefits in Europe: with a case study for Germany

  • Gerlinde Verbist
  • Markus M. Grabka


While cash housing benefits are generally included in household disposable income, the effect of social housing is not accounted for. This may provide a misleading picture of the impact of overall housing policies on inequality and poverty, as countries use different policies to help households meet their housing expenses. In this article, we present the first comprehensive study of the impact of in-kind housing benefits on income distribution and poverty in Europe. We contribute to two strands of the literature, notably the one that aims to quantify income advantages derived from housing and the other that aims to incorporate the value of public services in income. For this purpose, we calculate estimates of imputed rent and analyse how these benefits are distributed over the population and how they help to combat poverty. Our estimates are also relevant for the ongoing debate on whether cash or in-kind social transfers are to be preferred in social policy. We illustrate this with a case study for Germany, where we compare the distributive and poverty effect of cash and in-kind social benefits for housing for a longer time period.


Social housing Non-cash income Imputed rent Income distribution 

JEL Classification

D31 H4 I31 I32 



The research for this paper has benefited from financial support by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2012-2016) under Grant Agreement No 290613 (ImPRovE: Poverty Reduction in Europe: Social Policy and Innovation; We thank Karel Van den Bosch, Michael Förster and two anonymous reviewers for very useful remarks on an earlier version of this article. The authors are solely responsible for any remaining shortcomings and errors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Herman Deleeck Centre for Social PolicyUniversity of AntwerpAntwerpBelgium
  2. 2.SOEPDeutsches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung e.V. (DIW Berlin)BerlinGermany
  3. 3.TU BerlinBerlinGermany

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