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Taking your first steps into higher education
Taking your first steps into higher education

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2.2 Comparing different housing

It is very easy to forget that the reason we looked at the Bretts and Confinos in so much detail was to try and draw out some wider issues. If these two families were the only ones where this contrast could be found, this would be important for the individuals concerned but it would not reflect the wider society. Social science uses examples like these two families to identify broader issues such as the amount of control and choice people have in their lives.

As you do the next activity try to bear this in mind. Although you are still using the two families as examples you are drawing on your understanding of wider social influences to make predictions about their futures.

Activity 3 The effects of different housing

Timing: Allow approximately 40 minutes

Record your answers in your notebook.

So far you have been focusing on skills and techniques of reading. This activity gives you the chance to do some writing using the notes you already have.

Look back at your table of differences between the housing conditions of the two families, and at the article too so that you can provide more detail if you need it. Now use your notebook to write about 200 words contrasting the ways in which the two families’ differing circumstances might affect their futures.

Focus on these three major factors: housing, education and money. To contrast means to show differences.

Try and start with a sentence that says what you are writing about. It is also a good idea to finish with a concluding sentence to highlight your main point.


Here is an example of writing about the effects of different housing:

Three major factors which impact on the families’ futures are housing, education and money. Housing plays a key part in shaping educational opportunities and therefore life chances. The cramped space in the Bretts’ flat means that the children have little room for quiet study, whereas the Confinos have plenty of room to study. The poor condition of the Bretts’ flat also plays a role. Broken windows and a broken lavatory will make for harsher living conditions than in the Confinos’ comfortable house. Then there is the lack of educational resources. Whereas the Confino children have computers with broadband, educational toys and after-school classes the Brett children appear only to have a television. Finally there is lack of money. Debbie had to give up her law degree because of the cost of childcare, and Zoe is only ‘hanging on’ at college, partly because of the pressure of having to do part-time work. The Confinos have none of these financial pressures, and can concentrate on studying. It seems, then, that the three factors act together to shape in contrasting way the likely futures of two families.

Don’t worry if your writing looks different to the one above. This example has been constructed as a paragraph which has:

  • sentences which introduce each of the three factors
  • a sentence to sum up
  • sentences that make comparisons between the Bretts and Confinos using words like: whereas, harder, only, none of these.

Some social scientists have argued that housing has a significant influence upon life chances in a wide range of ways, including but not limited to educational factors. As you read the next section, you should be able to identify how living in different types of housing affects the life chances of the members of the two families.

Different types of housing
Figure 6 Different types of housing