Working-class home ownership during the interwar period

History Free Essay Example


The writer of this article, Peter Scott, an economic scholar analyzes the emergence of suburban means of housing among the work-class group and the impacts it had on the general family planning during Britain’s inter-war period. He discusses how this model of housing affected both the working class people and the middle level families who moved to live in the newly designed estates in suburban regions. In his paper, Scott brings out critical issues as the theme of his discussion such as the: effects of the suburban housing lifestyle on fertility rates among the working class, their budget consumption patterns and the overall household expenditures, the working-class’ process of adapting suburbanization and the property acquirement process during interwar.

Scott argues that the interwar period in Britain from 1919-1939 led to a transformation in the housing market as people shifted from areas which were considered to be in the inner-urban to suburban semi areas that radically increased the housing business supply by 50%.

His main question is on whether the owner-occupation housing model can be attributed as the main cause of reduced fertility rates and smaller families among the working-class in Britain during the interwar period. This is interesting because he examines how ‘the strong occupational and local disparities in working-class’ affects fertility rates among people. He gives a breakdown almost comparing the wage rates of manual workers, mining communities and the textile industries correlated with their child bearing trends. It is also interesting because the central government and local agencies are surmounting pressure to these working classes to strive and increase the childbirth rate for the sake of labor in the country. That is ironically interesting. It is also interesting because buying a house in the suburban area ushers in a family to the desired level of respectability but at the same time, introduces the family to increased expenditure due to high mortgage payments and high living costs hence overstretching their budgets. To curb this challenge and maintain high class lifestyle, owner-occupiers resort to reducing the sizes of their families.

Scott answers his main question in the paper by providing credible examples. He uses government expenditure records and diagrams as on page 101 to portray the different in wages in various working cadres, he cites the works of what other scholars in relation to his research as in the example below:

Conversely, Hughes and Hunt have identified the emergence during the interwar period of a different model of working-class respectability, based around independence from even the local community and focused on the family as ‘an intense domestic unit enclosed from the wider world’(Walker, 2011, p.105.

His main data sources include a thorough analysis of 58 working-class people’s life histories. He clearly sites his sources as from:

The analysis draws on a database of 58 life histories (hereafter Life Histories Database) of working-class people who moved into owner-occupation between 1919 and 1939, compiled from oral history collections, published and unpublished autobiographies, contemporary interviews and other sources, and discussed in more detail in the appendix (Walker, 2011, p.100).

He uses both qualitative and quantitative research methodologies. The 58 case studies provide an in-depth analysis of various variables in his research work. In my opinion, the test and models used are very sensible. For instance, he says that the suburban principles strongly put emphasis on the need for better childcare standards through the creation of domestic surroundings that are of high quality. I find this necessary so as to maintain a healthier lifestyle with a manageable number of children.

Throughout his analysis, Scot concludes that the owner occupation model of housing has transformed the lifestyles of the people as they strive to keep families that they can effectively maintain. These have an immediate impact on household expenditures budgets and eventually the country’s population growth plan. Despite putting up these detailed research arguments, some scholars have come up to dispute Scott’s work, terming the migration from inner-urban to suburban areas as inappropriate. Pierre Bourdieu, an economic scholar argued that the migration to new living environments, undermined the habitus which maintained traditional working-class consumption patterns in inner-urban communities and substituted new, more materially- and domestically- orientated values (Bourdieu, 2005). He goes ahead to note that the flexibility of memories and attitudes over the years is diminished by using testimonials of lifestyles as have been done in this study hence differs with other evidences.

In my opinion, another weakness that search a study presents is the general use of oral history as a research methodology for data collection. The use of existing oral history may be inadequate due to the initial methods which could have been partial in favor of particular groups, used of selecting the sample population from the labor market at the time. My challenge is that it would be worth it to conduct a similar study in the recent years to analyze whether this trend has changed with the current advanced technological and modern family planning methods era.


Bourdieu, P. (2005). Embourgeoisement’ before affluence? Suburbanization and the social

Filtering of working-class communities in interwar Britain. The Social Structures of the Economy 18, Retrieved from

Walker, J and Dark, K (2011). “Article”, Journal, VolNum (IssueNum), 2011, pp. 120 – 150

Scott, P.Book, Location: Publisher, 2011