I shall present a selective overview of recent themes and directions in social research on housing in the U.S. I narrowed the topic by focusing on research centering on the family and on neighborhood. These topics offer ways to concentrate on "social" research and to narrow a rather broad topic.
My meaning of "social" research encompasses work not only by sociologists. It also includes the separate or collaborative work of other disciplines, especially psychology, anthropology, social psychology, architecture and urban planning. Research on housing has from its Post-World War II flowering been an interdisciplinary enterprise. And it continues to be so.
Several themes stand out in the last 15 years. A longstanding and overriding framework in housing research involves physical determinism - the assumption that the house, neighborhood, community or town influences and shapes how people live. This view has remained predominant (Schorr, 1963); but there are growing reactions against it to suggest that people select environments according to their preferences more than being shaped by those environments (Pynoos et al, 1973) and that people and environments interact to affect each other Ti eller 1966). On the whole, physical determinism remains the strongest of the orientations: it takes a physical setting as given and assesses the impact on life styles, values and attitudes, or it involves design of housing environments which presume to create desirable social conditions. The deterministic view and reactions against it permeate each of the four research emphases which are described next.
"Social Research on Housing in the United States: Directions and Themes,"
The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare: Vol. 3
, Article 2.
Available at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/jssw/vol3/iss2/2