The likelihood of a young person getting on the housing ladder is increasingly determined by their parents’ wealth, according to a new study.
Those from the wealthiest backgrounds are three times more likely to report homeownership by the age of 35, compared to individuals from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, according to research from the University of Bath.
The comparison was between those with parents who were high educated homeowners, and those who came from a ‘low educated’, renter background.
Those born to educated, homeowner families are more likely to buy homes of their own by 35, and could have ten times as much equity accumulated in those properties as other owners
It said that there was a growing ‘economic penalty’ associated with being born to parents with low incomes, which would ‘increasingly constrain individuals’ life choices and have profound ramifications in later life’.
For example, it pointed out that those without money tied up in a home may struggle to pay for social care.
The study, which used figures from the most recent Office for National Statistics Wealth and Assets Survey, also found that inequality in home ownership had worsened over time.
It said that young people from the least affluent backgrounds reported lower levels of homeownership and housing wealth in 2018, than their predecessors growing up in similar circumstances did just six years earlier.
In contrast, between the two periods studied, levels of housing wealth among young people from wealthy backgrounds did not reduce.
‘Housing wealth’ refers to the value of the home that they own, minus the amount of the mortgage.
And among those younger people that did own homes, those from the wealthiest backgrounds had ten times more ‘housing wealth’ in 2018 than those from the most disadvantaged.
Those with high-educated, homeowner parents generally had the most ‘housing wealth’
This graph shows housing wealth as a proportion of individuals’ total wealth
By age 35, the former group had £105,296 in housing wealth on average versus £10,536 for the latter.
The research suggests that home ownership is becoming more unequal over time, with those from poorer backgrounds less likely to own homes and accumulate equity in those homes.
While the study focused on the pre-pandemic period, the researchers said that Covid was likely to result in the inequalities being maintained.
‘The recent Covid-19 pandemic has led to further sustained and significant increases in house values and thus the findings here are likely to continue to hold,’ they wrote in the report.
Parents wanting to help their children is natural, however we need a policy environment which allows individuals from less affluent backgrounds to get ahead too
Dr Ricky Kanabar, University of Bath
It also looked at a measure called ‘intergenerational wealth elasticity’, which measures the economic advantage a child from a higher-income family can expect to have in the next generation, over one from a lower-income family.
It estimated that, between 2010-12 and 2016-18, the intergenerational wealth elasticity in housing increased by 18 percentage points for individuals born to the same parental wealth background.
If current trends are maintained, it said that levels of intergenerational wealth elasticity in housing wealth could double in around the next 100 years.
The report’s authors, Professor Paul Gregg and Dr Ricky Kanabar, wrote that the Government should create policies to ‘level up and improve the life chances of those with low or even zero family resources to draw on’.
‘Ignoring this will lead to a growing ‘economic penalty’ of being born to parents of low wealth which will increasingly constrain individuals’ life choices and have profound ramifications in later life,’ the report said.
The authors called on the government to ‘level up’ the home ownership playing field for those without significant family wealth to draw on, warning of an increasing ‘economic penalty’
Kanabar added: ‘Many of us will have experienced the effects of parental wealth, either directly as recipients or witnessing friends and colleagues, supposedly in similar situations, all-of-a-sudden being able to put down deposits for their first house.
‘Of course, parents wanting to help their children is natural and understandable, however we also need a policy environment which allows individuals from less affluent backgrounds to get ahead too.
‘If we do not expand access to homeownership then the current trends in wealth inequality are likely to continue widening at a rapid pace.’
Between 2010 and 2018 average house prices in Britain grew by more than 37 per cent.
The situation has been exacerbated since then. According to Nationwide, they increased by 10.4 per cent in the year to December 2021, reaching nearly £255,000.
A separate report from Zoopla in December 2021 found that nearly two-thirds of parents contributed towards the deposit on their childs’ home, giving an average of £32,440.
The University of Bath report also said that decreasing housing wealth among those from poorer backgrounds could have knock-on effects when it came to funding social care in later life.
Dr Kanabar added: ‘The historic and recent returns on housing implies that as house prices continue to rise, the distinction between having and not having your own home will affect individuals’ wealth accumulation and their mobility throughout their whole lives.
‘In later years this could have profound effects when it comes to paying for social care and inheritances.
‘If the Government is genuinely concerned about levelling up and improving life chances, then it needs to introduce additional policies to reduce the pace at which wealth inequality is increasing.’
The report was entitled ‘Intergenerational wealth transmission and mobility in Great Britain: what components of wealth matter?’ and was published by the University College London Centre for Education Policy and Equalising Opportunities.
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