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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 April 2007, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
The economics of social trends
House keys

The latest Social Trends report from the Office for National Statistics has painted a picture of changing life in the UK.

Among its findings were that Britons were increasingly likely to struggle to afford to buy a home, and that young people are staying at home longer.

But what are the economic reasons behind these trends?


Britain is a nation seemingly obsessed with property - but buying a home is proving impossible for many, especially first-time buyers.

Perhaps what underlines this most starkly is the ONS finding that between 1995 and 2005 wages had risen 92% - but house prices rocketed 204%.

Put bluntly, in 1995 the average home cost 46,489. Ten years later it was 141,222.

One of the main reasons why house prices have soared is that not enough have been built to meet demand.

While some have attributed this to immigration, another major factor is the growing number of people living alone, or in smaller households.

We are seeing very young people getting mortgages who think that home ownership is the only way to live in a house
Saxon Brettell
Cambridge Econometrics

Builders have reacted, with more and more new-build homes now having only one or two bedrooms.

One cause is that houses which do become available are often snapped up by investors looking to rent out property for a profit.

"Stock has been taken out of the market and prices are going up," said Helen Adams of FirstRungNow.com, a website to help first-time buyers.

The fear of being left behind has been another reason behind the demand for property, said Saxon Brettell of consultancy Cambridge Econometrics.

"We are seeing very young people getting mortgages who think that home ownership is the only way to live in a house," Mr Brettell said.

He added that migration to economic centres by both professionals and the army of support staff - from office workers to cleaners - was also adding to the pressure on housing.


The inaffordability of housing is also behind another ONS finding: that about six in 10 men and four in 10 women aged 20 to 24 still live with their parents, according to the ONS.

Will he still be at home in 20 years' time?

The trend has been branded KIPPERS - Kids In Parents' Pockets, Eroding Retirement Savings - and is an issue that has been worrying economists in the past few years.

The ONS links this to a tripling of the number of youngsters going into further education between 1971 and 2005.

"Young people are making a choice to stay at home longer," said Social Market Foundation chief economist Stephen Evans.

"They're making a choice to extend their educations because they know that they're going to get higher earnings in the long run."

Student loans and other debts accrued through study - especially at university - may be compounding the difficulties of getting onto the housing ladder and increasing the reliance on parents, economists say.

One woman explains why she is still living at home

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