Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 695–717 | Cite as

Subjective perception versus objective indicators of overcrowding and housing affordability

  • Petr Sunega
  • Martin Lux
Original Paper


This article seeks to evaluate indicators of overcrowding and housing affordability used by Eurostat and to propose alternatives that may better reflect the specific contexts of individual EU states while preserving the possibility of valuable international comparison. The alternatives are assessed on the basis of the distance between the results produced by objective measures and the subjective evaluations of the problem reported by households, using one and the same data source: EU-SILC. The results show that alternative threshold definitions may decrease the current discrepancy between subjective perceptions and objective indicators of housing affordability and overcrowding. They also have the potential to lead to more effective targeting of public subsidies so that they are directed towards housing programmes that not only have an objective goal but also a subjectively identified legitimacy.


Housing Indicators Overcrowding Housing affordability 



This article has received financial support from the ‘Centre of Excellence’ project entitled ‘The Dynamics of Change in Czech Society’ which is funded by the Czech Science Foundation (Grant Agency of the Czech Republic, GACR, Grant No. 14-36154G).


  1. Abeysinghe, T., & Gu, J. (2011). Lifetime income and housing affordability in Singapore. Urban Studies, 48(9), 1875–1891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alesina, A., Di Tella, R., & MacCulloch, R. (2004). Inequality and happiness: Are Europeans and Americans different? Journal of Public Economics, 88(9–10), 2009–2042.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allardt, E. (1976). Dimensions of welfare in a comparative Scandinavian study. Acta Sociologica, 19(3), 227–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chasco, C., & Le Gallo, J. (2012). The impact of objective and subjective measures of air quality and noise on house prices: A multilevel approach for downtown Madrid. Economic Geography, 89(2), 127–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dewilde, C., & De Decker, P. (2014). Trends in housing inequalities in Europe: What has happened and why does it matter? HOWCOME Working Paper 4.Google Scholar
  6. Di Tella, R., MacCulloch, R., & Oswald, A. (2003). The macroeconomics of happiness. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 85(4), 809–827.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Easterlin, R. (1995). Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 27(1), 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gan, Q., & Hill, R. J. (2009). Measuring housing affordability: Looking beyond the median. Journal of Housing Economics, 18, 115–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Garnett, D. (2000). Housing finance. Coventry: Chartered Institute of Housing.Google Scholar
  10. Haffner, M., & Heylen, K. (2011). User costs and housing expenses. Towards a more comprehensive approach to affordability. Housing Studies, 26(4), 593–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Hayo, B., & Seifert, W. (2003). Subjective economic well-being in Eastern Europe. Journal of Economic Psychology, 24, 329–348.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Helliwell, J. (2003). How’s life? Combining individual and national variables to explain subjective well-being. Economic Modelling, 20(2), 331–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Iacovou, M., & Skew, A. (2011). Household composition across the new Europe: Where do the new Member States fit in? Demographic Research, 25(14), 465–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(1), 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lee, T., & Marans, W. (1978). Objective and subjective indicators: Effects of scale discordance on interrelationships. Social Indicators Research, 8, 47–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Lewis, S., & Lyo, L. (1986). The quality of community and the quality of life. Sociological Spectrum, 6, 397–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Liao, Pei-shan. (2009). Parallels between objective indicators and subjective perceptions of quality of life: A study of metropolitan and county areas in Taiwan. Social Indicators Research, 91(1), 99–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lux, M., & Sunega, P. (2006). Vývoj finanční dostupnosti nájemního a vlastnického bydlení v průběhu hospodářské transformace v České republice (1991–2003) (Housing affordability of rental and owner-occupied housing over the course of the economic transformation in the Czech Republic 1991–2003). Sociologický časopis/Czech Sociological Review, 42(5), 851–881.Google Scholar
  19. Maclennan, D., & Williams, R. (1990). Affordable housing in Europe. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  20. OECD. (2013). How’s life? At a glance. In How’s life? 2013: Measuring well-being. OECD Publishing.
  21. Randall, C., Corp, A., & Self, A. (2014). Measuring national well-being: Life in the UK, 2014. Newport: Office for National Statistics.–2014/art-mnwb–life-in-the-uk–2014.html.
  22. Schuessler, K. F., & Fisher, G. A. (1985). Quality of life research and sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 11, 129–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Stevenson, B., & Wolfers, J. (2008). Economic growth and subjective well-being: Reassessing the Easterlin paradox. NBER Working Paper No. 14282, August 2008.
  24. Stiglitz, J., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J. (2009). Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress.
  25. Thalmann, P. (1999). Identifying households which need housing assistance. Urban Studies, 36(11), 1933–1947.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Večerník, J. (2012). Subjektivní indikátory měření blahobytu: přístupy měření a data (Subjective indicators of well-being: Approaches, measurements and data). Politická ekonomie, 3, 291–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of SociologyCzech Academy of SciencesPrague 1Czech Republic

Personalised recommendations