Scottish Longitudinal Study
Development & Support Unit

Current Projects

Project Title:

Growing Up and Growing Old in Scotland: Housing transitions and changing living arrangements for young and older adults, 1991-2011

Project Number:



Elspeth Graham (University of St Andrews)
Francesca Fiori (CPC, University of St Andrews)
Zhiqiang Feng (CPC, University of St Andrews)

Start Date:

1 October 2013


The past few decades have seen significant demographic, social and economic changes that have resulted in increased diversity across individual life-courses and housing careers. Rising divorce rates, delays in family formation, smaller families, re-partnering and longer healthy life expectancy (McRae 1999; Smallwood & Wilson 2007) have all undermined traditional notions of (married) stability and (mortgaged) home ownership for the greater part of adult life. Further, the recent economic downturn has compounded some of these changes, having a disproportionate impact on first time home buyers and contributing to an ‘extended’ transition to adulthood.

The living arrangements of young adults have been investigated in a growing number of studies focussing on Europe. Two scientific journals have devoted special issues to the topic (the European Journal of Population in 2007 and Advances in Life-Course Research in 2010) providing an excellent research context for our study. Other studies have drawn attention to recent changes in the housing decisions of young adults in the UK, with independent living seen as a key element in transitions to adulthood (Ford et al 2002, Heath 2008). More recently, Stone et al. (2011) investigated the changing determinants of young adults’ living arrangements in the UK, finding notable heterogeneity in living arrangements by age, gender, country of birth, educational background, economic activity and region of residence.

At the other end of the adult age spectrum, the ageing of European populations has prompted a large number of studies on the living arrangements and housing circumstances of older people. A recent work on UK (Demey et al. 2011) related shifts in living arrangements for those aged 20–79 to changes in the occurrence and timing of life-events such as marriage and parenthood. Longitudinal data sets prove especially important for capturing the complexity of change, as exemplified by Grundy’s (2011) analysis of changes in older people’s living arrangements and subsequent mortality outcomes in England and Wales.

Although there is growing evidence of changes in age-related housing and living arrangements, there is need for a better understanding of what is driving these changes. Moreover, Scotland has not frequently been the focus of academic research. Indeed, Scotland has a more rapidly ageing population, a different housing stock and a distinctive policy environment compared with the rest of the UK. The project addresses this research gap and is the first to analyse housing transitions and changes in living arrangement for young and older adults within a common analytical framework.

The study investigates housing transitions and changes in living arrangements in early and later adulthood, when young adults have moved away from the parental home and into employment, and older adults are entering retirement and may consider downsizing their housing. Young adults are defined as those aged between 16 and 29 years at time 1, and older adults as those aged 55 to 69 at time 1. The complete project focuses on change across two time periods, 1991-2001 and 2001-2011.

The study addresses three research questions:

  1. How have housing transitions and living arrangements of young and older adults in Scotland changed between 1991 and 2011?
  2.  What are the key determinants (individual and contextual) of housing transitions and living arrangements? (And have these changed over time?)
  3. Has social and geographical polarisation in housing transitions and living arrangements of young and older adults increased over time?

SLS data would be used to address Research question 2, further specified as follows:

  • Do housing transitions and living arrangements differ significantly for men and women in both age-groups?
  • Are educational attainment, socio-economic status and/or health key determinants of differences in living arrangements and housing transitions in both age-groups?
  • How important are major demographic events, such as the birth of a child, illness or the death of a partner, as determinants of housing transitions and living arrangements?
  • Are there significant contextual differences, associated with factors such as housing market characteristics and employment opportunities?
  • Has the relative importance of these determinants changed over time?

and Research question 3:

  • Have the differences between the least and most disadvantaged social groups widened?
  • Have differences between different areas of Scotland increased over time?


Demey, D., Berrington, A., Evandrou, M. Falkingham J. (2011) The changing demography of midlife from the 1980s to the 2000s, Population Trends, 145, pp. 16-34

Ford, J., Rugg, J. and Burrows, R. (2002) Conceptualising the contemporary role of housing in the transition to adult life in England, Urban Studies, Vol. 39, pp. 2455–67

Grundy, E. (2011) Household transitions and subsequent mortality among older people in England and Wales: trends over three decades, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 65, pp. 353-359

Heath, S. (2008) Housing choices and issues for young people in the UK, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York.

McRae, S. (1999) Changing Britain: Families and Households in the 1990s, Oxford University Press, Oxford

Smallwood, S. & Wilson, B. (2007) Focus on families, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke

Stone, J., Berrington A. & Falkingham J. (2011) The changing determinants of young adults’ living arrangements, Demographic Research, 25, pp. 629-666

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