UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Residential differentiation and lifestyles Schmidt, Martin


Residential differentiation can be studied at a variety of scales, depending upon the objectives of the investigator. The premise for this study is that the basic factors involved can be more precisely isolated when examined at the level of residential units. When differentiation is regarded as the outcome of households seeking to satisfy very specific and personal needs and preferences, a more accurate basis can be established upon which decision makers can form policies concerning the creation of residential environments required in today's urban settings. It is evident from a review of literature that differentiation has not been very systematically analyzed at this level the ecological approach having been traditionally favored over the behavioral approach. With the support of only a few essentially descriptive studies, the basis of the argument is that when selection from alternatives is possible, households will attempt to choose their dwelling to "match" their present or intended pattern of living. Increasingly, a variety of dwelling types and tenure arrangements is possible in the market. Also, households are presented with increasing numbers of alternatives for the expenditure of their time and money. Through a process of comparative evaluation of perceived and real needs and wants, and the relative merits of competitive dwelling types, a selection is made. At the "city scale", the repetition of this process by numerous households yields a pattern of differentiation which is considered to be identifiable in terms of residential structures. The activity pattern or "way-of-living" of a household was regarded as an overt expression of its needs and wants, and referred to as its "lifestyle". This term was operationalized in terms of the dwelling or non-dwelling-unit orientation of the household's activities. Competitive conventional single-family houses and condominium townhouses were chosen as the sample units. Empirical research was undertaken to determine if residential differentiation by lifestyle and dwelling type would occur in a predictable manner. Structured interviews were conducted with a random sample of pre-qualified households in Greater Vancouver using time-activity budgets for recording and categorizing their activities (either "dwelling" or "non-dwelling" unit oriented). The data collected were analyzed, using percentage tables and graphs. It was revealed that no clear relationship existed between a household's activity orientation and its choice of a particular dwelling type. The hypothesis was therefore rejected. Further refinement in definition and operationalization of the variable "lifestyle", the use of a much broader sample, and more comprehensive use of time-activity budgets will be necessary in subsequent research to properly conclude whether differentiation does occur in the terms set forth here. From the study it was learned that personal attitudes toward such matters as "ownership and equity", and "control over personal physical environment" may be even more critical than actual behavior in effecting choices among dwelling alternatives (economic factors being constant). The investigation of psychological and social (overt behavior) traits combined is recommended to gain a fuller understanding of voluntary spatial differentiation among households.

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