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Discrimination against women headed income units in the Australian housing market

Harrison, Jane (1995) Discrimination against women headed income units in the Australian housing market. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines the issue of discrimination against women headed income units in the Australian housing market using the 1990 Survey of Income and Housing Costs and Amenities. Discrimination in housing markets is operationally defined as actions which adversely affect women headed income units (i.e. sole parent women and single women) and result either in a lower probability of home ownership for equal endowments or characteristics, or higher rents paid for equivalent housing.

In the first two chapters, the theoretical literature on discrimination in housing is critically reviewed and alternative methodologies for detecting discrimination analysed. The two key methodologies examined are the direct housing audit approach and the indirect statistical approach. As a result of the high cost of implementing a direct housing audit approach to detecting discrimination, only the indirect statistical method is utilised in this thesis.

In chapter three the Australian housing market is profiled and differences in home ownership rates between women headed income units and other income units are examined together with differences in the type of accommodation ‘chosen’ by various income units and the market value or rental price of the accommodation. Our data indicate that home ownership rates are lowest among women headed income units in the 25-39 prime age category and that sole parent women also reside in dwellings with relatively low rents.

To examine whether gender differences in home ownership rates remain after controlling for income levels, relative price differences and other factors affecting access to home ownership, we estimate in chapter four a set of probit models which attempt to capture the direct impact of income unit type on home ownership rates. Our results suggest that sole parent women have significantly lower home ownership rates than couples with dependent children for similar characteristics. At the same time, however, single person income units of both genders also have significantly lower home ownership rates than couples. This suggests that gender and marital status both need to be considered in studies of discrimination. We extend our analysis of gender discrimination in the owner occupied market by decomposing differences in mean home ownership rates between income unit types into endowment and residual components and undertake statistical tests of the residual effect and its sub-components for each income unit type.

In chapter five we estimate hedonic rental regressions which examine differences in rents paid for equivalent quality housing. While sole parent women pay much lower rents than other income units in the private rental market, this appears to result from the lower quality housing they reside in. At the same time, sole parent women have a significantly higher probability of being in the public rental market than other income units and pay significantly lower rents for equivalent quality housing in this sector. It may of course be the case that public rental authorities are positively discriminating in favour of sole parent women because of their higher needs and difficulties faced in other housing market sectors. In terms of single persons, both single men and women have a higher probability of being in the private rental sector than other income units (and a significantly lower probability of being in the public rental sector). Whether they pay significantly higher or lower rents in the private rental sector is difficult to determine as our hedonic price results are particularly sensitive to model specification. The most likeiy scenario, however, is that residual effects are small in the private rental market, particularly when we account for all age groups. If anything it would appear that single men pay somewhat less than other income units for equivalent housing. In the conclusion we overview the results of the dissertation.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Economics and Commerce
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Wood, Gavin
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/51318
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