Understanding Society Scientific Conference 2019 - , University of Essex

Geographies of young people's debt: where do young indebted people go?

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Day:Wed 3 Jul
  • Isabelle Bi, University of Bristol

Examining young people (18 to 34 year old) in both UKHLS and Wealth and Asset survey, we present visual biographies based on constructed debt profiles – based on those highly indebted to their income, those managing ‘to get by’, and those able to ‘play the system’ of cheap credit post- 2008 – to better explain whether debt influences the residential mobility decisions, housing tenure choices and length of tenure for indebted individuals. Research explaining an individual’s decision to move is complicated:  weighing the costs of the move against the benefits for their loved ones, for employment, and for lifestyle aspirations (Bayrakdar and Coulter, 2018; Berrington, 2014; Billari, 2007).  Underpinning these changes are mounting economic costs in the UK housing market (Green, 2017) and yet research has not been conducted to show whether an individual’s mobility can be explained by their debt.

We will present results that demonstrate those who better manage their debt, or ‘play the system’ to their advantage, to have increased mobility than those highly indebted over time, leaving the parental home and achieving housing independence sooner. We further scrutinise the winners and losers of this phenomenon by demonstrating the role of gender, marital status, and parental obligations in tandem with debt. This analysis links an individual’s debt circumstance to the young people’s accessibility of mobility. It sits along a larger body of work that maps the geographies of household debt in society and encourages further efforts by policymakers to consider young people’s relationship with debt.