Volume 35 - Article 6 | Pages 139–166  

My house or our home? Transitions into sole home ownership in British couples

By Philipp M. Lersch, Sergi Vidal


Background: It is mostly assumed that both partners in couples own their homes jointly. We challenge this assumption and examine the individual ownership configurations within couples in Britain. We argue that the individual legal status as an owner will determine to what degree individuals can benefit from home ownership.

Objective: Two research questions are addressed: (1) How frequent is home ownership by only one partner in a couple, i.e., sole home ownership, in Britain? (2) Which factors are associated with the transition into sole home ownership for partnered individuals?

Methods: Using longitudinal data from the British Household Panel Survey (1992-2008) and the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2010-2011), we apply logistic regression and discrete-time event history analyses.

Results: We find that 8% of partnered individuals in owner-occupancy are sole homeowners. Many individuals become sole homeowners at union formation by remaining the owner of a pre-union home. A substantial share of partnered individuals become sole homeowners during their unions. Overall, transitions into sole home ownership are more likely after divorce, with more economic resources, with stepchildren living in the home, for cohabitants, and with shorter union durations.

Conclusions: Sole home ownership is partly an outcome of demographic processes such as increased union instability and more frequent cohabitation. In turn, sole home ownership may also impinge on these processes. For instance, sole home ownership may increase the risk of union dissolution compared to joint home ownership. This is one avenue for future research.

Contribution: The current study is the first quantitative analysis to investigate the extent to which home ownership is jointly held within couples. By taking into account that home ownership may be an individual asset not shared in couples, this analysis substantially contributes to the emerging literature on within-union wealth inequalities.

Author's Affiliation

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