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Intergenerational support shaping residential trajectories: young people leaving home in a gentrifying city - By Cody Hochstenbach & Willem R. Boterman

Publication date 08-12-2015

Across many different urban contexts, young people are currently faced with increasing constraints on the housing market. Inflating housing prices and stricter mortgage lending criteria render homeownership out of reach for more and more young people who, increasingly dependent on temporary employment contracts, are unable to acquire a mortgage at all. It has frequently been highlighted that parental support, in both financial and non-financial ways, may improve young people’s housing market position. Parents may help to buy a place for their offspring or cover (part of) their rental costs.

Furthermore, they can provide useful social networks or broker housing in other ways – giving their offspring a head start on the housing market. Consequently, inequalities are transmitted across generations. The impact of the intergenerational transmission of inequalities on neighbourhood outcomes is not often studied however. This is an important omission in terms of understanding inequalities in the formation of residential trajectories in relation to urban space.  


In recent years the population of Amsterdam has grown substantially, in part due to an increasing influx of students and the retention of recent graduates. These trends, combined with the housing choices of middle-class families already present in the city, have played a pivotal role in the gentrification of Amsterdam’s inner ring (a process which local authorities have been happy to accommodate and further stimulate). Simultaneously, the outer ring areas have increasingly  become sites where poverty concentrations are increasing. Young people with “wealthy” parents overwhelmingly move to Amsterdam’s inner-ring neighbourhoods. These are predominantly either high-status and expensive neighbourhoods (the Canal Belt and the affluent Old South being good examples), or gentrifying neighbourhoods – including neighbourhoods of already mature gentrification like De Jordaan, or De Pijp neighbourhood. Young people from relatively poor backgrounds mainly move to the city’s outer ring areas, often post-war extensions to the city characterized by a relatively low status. These patterns hold when controlling for a range of personal characteristics, including income.

While the housing outcomes of young people may be the result of financial support, they also reflect broader processes of social reproduction involving social and cultural forms of capital. Facilitating their children to move into inner-ring neighbourhoods – often in relation to participation in education – is a key strategy in this regard,– making David Harvey’s work on residential differentiation highly pertinent to understanding processes of change affecting Amsterdam neighbourhoods.


The choices being effected by the children of middle class families in the Amsterdam housing market have impacted neighbourhood gentrification, and contributed to processes of displacement and exclusion. Young people from middle class backgrounds – despite their typically low incomes – are not only able to outbid other young people from poorer backgrounds, but can also be considered the (potential) carriers of parental wealth into previously poor (gentrifying) areas. Intergenerational wealth transfers can allow young people to pay otherwise unaffordable rents or are part of parental investment strategies in housing in areas where returns are relatively high. In such ways can parental wealth effectively be put to use to outbid other households and household types, contributing to their exclusion or displacement and ultimately advancing the gentrification process. 


This blog originally appeared on the Urban Studies Journal blog. It is based on the paper  “Intergenerational support shaping residential trajectories: young people leaving home in a gentrifying city” published in Urban Studies.