Silicon Valley Notebook


The relative impacts of structural dynamics and personal agency on housing careers were assessed using a mixed methods approach. Secondary survey from the 2009 “American Housing Survey: National Microdata” (US Bureau of the Census) were supplemented with qualitative observations collected for this research from three professionals knowledgeable about housing issues as well as content analysis of journalistic writings about housing issues. Respondents’ housing moves were driven more by personal choice than by structural displacement. However, both structural displacement (as predicted by the Structural Inequalities paradigm) and personal choice, a dimension of agency (predicted with Becker and Tumin’s Human Capital theory), equally shaped, albeit in opposite ways, downward or upward housing mobility, respectively. Socio-economic resources that could facilitate personal agency had no impact. The professional interviewees agreed with some of these statistical findings but disagreed with others. Content analysis captured contemporary housing and gentrification issues in communities. This research extended the existing scholarship on housing quality by simultaneously accounting for structural dynamics and personal agency.