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Movin' on up? An overview of the housing situation for foreign-origin persons in West Germany -- Anita I. Drever and William A.V. Clark
Movin' on up? An overview of the housing situation for foreign-origin persons in West Germany.
Anita I. Drever and William A.V. Clark
University of California, Los Angeles
(ROUGH DRAFT, PLEASE DO NOT QUOTE)
The results of our analysis reveal that the housing situation for persons of foreign-origin in Germany has improved significantly over time. However, what is worrying is that persons of foreign-origin have made only slight gains in housing quality relative to native-born Germans. This indicates that the current policy framework needs to be amended, by for example enforcing laws which make it illegal to discriminate against non-German renters.
The research here builds on a large literature documenting the position of vulnerable groups in Germany's housing market. Specifically it updates research done during the mid 1980s which found that persons of foreign origin were concentrated in Germany's worst housing either in the aging housing stock (Altbau) in central city areas of near industrial areas. In addition it the research updates work done by the authors on patterns of residential mobility for Germans and persons of foreign-origin in the past.
Other important factors to note regarding the analysis are that all personal characteristics, such as foreign-origin or age, refer to the characteristics of the household head. Income and space per person are adjusted in the regression analysis. This allows us to take into consideration economies of scale with regards to space in larger households and it allows us to adjust for the fact that a household income of 50,000 DM goes much further in a family of two than it does in a family of five. The descriptive analysis compares 1985 and 1998 cross sectional files whereas the regressions and mover analysis are calculated from a pooled data set which includes data from every year between 1985 and 1998.
In the analysis we look at persons of Turkish origin separately as well as at persons of foreign-origin overall. The reason we focus on Turks in particular is twofold. First, in the past Turks faced more difficult housing and economic conditions than persons of foreign-origin overall. Second, Turks are the largest national subgroup within Germany, and the GSOEP immigrant sub-sample, making the analysis of their housing situation not only possible, but also particularly relevant. We also distinguish between different age groups as housing needs and wealth are different at different stages in the life cycle. Finally the descriptive analysis is conducted only on households living in communities of 20,000 or more persons. We focus on the urban population because foreign-origin persons are underrepresented in rural areas and housing tend to be cheaper and crowding less of an issue outside of German cities.
Analysis and results
Across all other housing quality indicators significant differences still remain. The graphs for rooms per person (figure 3) and space per person (figure 4) both indicate that persons of foreign-origin remain more crowded than persons of German origin. Also of interest is the fact that although Germans become less crowded as they get older this is generally not the case for persons of foreign-origin or Turks. Information for middle aged Turkish persons in 1-2 person
households was not included because, remarkably, only 8 Turkish households fit into this category. Objective differences in crowding measures are reflected in subjective evaluations of adequacy of space (figure 5). Persons of foreign-origin are more likely to feel the size of their living area to be inadequate, while elderly Turkish persons in 1998 were particularly dissatisfied.
Earlier research indicates that persons of foreign-origin were more likely to pay more for their housing than German nationals. This appears to still be the case, as is reflected by the fact that persons of foreign-origin are more likely to be unsatisfied with their current rent levels. This is also a strong indicator of unequal access to housing in Germany in that high rents for low quality housing are characteristic of conditions in which housing discrimination is taking place.
It is important to look at a group's distribution within particular housing types as this often indicates the type of neighborhood a group is living in. More and more persons of foreign-origin are moving into buildings with 9 or more units whereas numbers of Germans in these buildings is beginning to drop (figure 8). This trend is especially pronounced among elderly non-Germans. Large apartment buildings in Germany are often located towards the edge of the city and are isolated from services. As in other parts of Europe, economically vulnerable persons such as single mothers, the unemployed and the elderly are becoming increasingly concentrated in these areas. Persons of foreign-origin are likely to end up socially and geographically isolated in these areas.
Since 1985 persons of foreign-origin have become more likely to enter into home ownership and live in housing with only 1 or 2 units (Figures 9 ad 10). However, the gap between persons of foreign-origin and Germans remains substantial and it increases over the period of the life cycle.
Notable is the fact that in every model the foreign-origin variable was not only significant, but the effects were large. This indicates that it was not primarily socio-economic characteristics of the foreign origin population, such as their lower than average incomes, causing them to concentrate in poorer than average housing. Either persons of foreign origin are choosing to spend a smaller portion of their incomes on housing, or factors such as discrimination within the housing market are making it difficult for them to obtain quality housing.
Foreign origin interactions and an owner vs. renter variable were included in the model of likelihood of living within a building of 9 or more units. The reason being that the interactions show that when persons of foreign-origin make the transition to home ownership, this is more likely to occur in large apartment buildings. In addition, larger foreign-origin households are more likely to live in large apartment buildings than larger German families. This is concerning because future generations of foreign-origin persons are especially likely to suffer the consequences of social isolation as a result of their concentration in large housing districts (GroÃŸsiedlungen).
Owner vs. (renter)
Number in household
1992-1998 vs. 85-91
Adj inc x foreign orig
Age x foreign orig
Age sq x foreign orig
Owner x foreign orig
Urban x foreign orig
# in household x for orig
Year seg x for orig
**= removed because of multicolinearity
Owner vs. (renter)
Number in household
1992-1998 vs. 85-91
** due to recoding of this variable in the GSOEP, analysis is for years 1992-1998 only
Adjusted net income
Owner vs. (renter)
Number in household
1992-1998 vs. 85-91
Foreign x adj. income
Results of moves
Our analysis reveals that both Germans and persons of foreign-origin improve their housing quality significantly through moving. However, in most cases persons of foreign-origins do not do so to the extent that Germans do. For example, if we look at rooms per person for 1-2 person and 3 or more person households before and after a move (figures 12 and 13), we see that although most groups, except for the elderly, increase their average number of rooms, the percentage increases are greater for Germans.
The percent changes associated with moving in and out of particular housing types are particularly dramatic (see figures 15 and 16). The graphs indicate that moves are likely to result in Turks leaving 1-2 unit buildings while persons of foreign-origin do increase their representation in the 1-2 unit housing stock through a move, but only slightly. On the other hand, moves tend to bring elderly persons generally, and Turks in particular, into 9 or more unit housing.
On a more optimistic note, Turkish persons in particular appear to be able to make especially dramatic improvements in the conditions of their housing facilities when they move (see figure 17). This fact is not independent of their moving into large apartment buildings. It appears that Turks are moving out of pre World War II, poorly renovated housing into large apartment blocks built between the 1960s and 1980s that native Germans are finding increasingly less desirable.
Interestingly, persons are more likely to be satisfied with their rent burden despite the fact that moving is known to be costly in Germany. However, Germans are more likely to become satisfied with their change in rent levels than either persons of foreign-origin or Turks (see figure 14). This is a further indication that it is more difficult and costly for persons of foreign-origin to move.
The policy implications of the research are several. First, consideration should be given to whether or not it is in Germany's best interest to have growing concentrations of Turkish persons in large housing estates. On the one hand, apartments in these large buildings are generally well renovated and larger than those found in the older housing stock in the central city. In addition, Turks are likely to be valuable clients in an area of the housing market where the vacancy rates are relatively high. On the other hand, Turks are having a difficult time successfully integrating into Germany's labor market and educational system. It seems likely that the growing concentration of Turkish families in these housing complexes will have a particularly strong impact on the chances for success in the labor market for Turkish children. Another issue the research brings up is to what extent persons, solely by virtue of their nationality, have a more difficult time accessing housing in Germany. Our findings and past research indicate that housing discrimination continues to exist in Germany. The popular press and even guide books to living in Germany further reinforce this. In addition, it is legal for landlords to discriminate against persons who do not have German citizenship. Housing market barriers tend to foster the growth of an underclass that is separate and resentful of the majority. Policy measure which seek to tackle these issues are likely to bolster other efforts currently underway in Germany to promote integration and enable Germany to better absorb more immigrants in the future.
 We wish to thank the German Institute of Economic Research (DIW) for providing access to the facilities and data used in the research. We would also like to thank Joachim Frick for his helpful comments and suggestions. The research was supported by a grant from the UCLA Summer Research Mentorship Program and through a fellowship from the SSRC Berlin Program.
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