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Comparative Housing Research: A ‘System-Embedded’ Approach


  • Mark Stephens


This paper seeks to rebuild and strengthen the case for policy-related comparative housing research as an academic activity. Critiques that have discouraged the practice of international research have undermined its legitimacy whilst eroding the evidence base, and have devalued its function through the use of value-laden language and unevidenced assertions. While ‘glocalisation’ presents a challenge to cross-national research we argue that nation states are still policy resource rich, and that the existence of distinctive national institutions through which common international pressures are mediated strengthens the case for it. Building on an examination of the distinctive qualities of housing compared to the main ‘pillars’ of the welfare state, we make the case for what we call ‘system-embedded research’. This marks a development from existing ‘middle ways’, being founded on the principle that policy is conceived within wider housing systems and housing systems themselves operate within wider social and economic structures. Through contrasting case studies we show that if founded on the principle of being system-embedded, policy-related comparative housing research can reap high rewards; but if it does not it carries grave risks.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Stephens, 2011. "Comparative Housing Research: A ‘System-Embedded’ Approach," International Journal of Housing Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(4), pages 337-355, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:intjhp:v:11:y:2011:i:4:p:337-355 DOI: 10.1080/14616718.2011.626598

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Case Karl E. & Quigley John M. & Shiller Robert J., 2005. "Comparing Wealth Effects: The Stock Market versus the Housing Market," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-34, May.
    2. Edward E. Leamer, 2007. "Housing is the business cycle," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 149-233.
    3. David L. Wickens & Ray R. Foster, 1937. "Non-Farm Residential Construction, 1920-1936," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number wick37-1, January.
    4. Karl E. Case & Robert J. Shiller, 1988. "The behavior of home buyers in boom and post-boom markets," New England Economic Review, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, issue Nov, pages 29-46.
    5. David Genesove & Christopher Mayer, 2001. "Loss Aversion and Seller Behavior: Evidence from the Housing Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1233-1260.
    6. Robert J. Shiller, 2007. "Understanding recent trends in house prices and homeownership," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 89-123.
    7. Richard K. Green & Susan M. Wachter, 2007. "The housing finance revolution," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, pages 21-67.
    8. Zarnowitz, Victor, 1992. "Business Cycles," National Bureau of Economic Research Books, University of Chicago Press, number 9780226978901.
    9. Dwight M. Jaffee & John M. Quigley, 1975. "Housing Policy, Mortgage Policy, and the Federal Housing Administration," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring and Managing Federal Financial Risk, pages 97-125 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. David L. Wickens & Ray R. Foster, 1937. "Non-Farm Residential Construction, 1920-1936," NBER Chapters,in: Non-Farm Residential Construction, 1920-1936, pages 1-20 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Karl E. Case & Robert J. Shiller, 2003. "Is There a Bubble in the Housing Market?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 34(2), pages 299-362.
    12. Moses Abramovitz, 1964. "Evidences of Long Swings in Aggregate Construction Since the Civil War," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number abra64-1, January.
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