World

Adequate Housing Unaffordable for Many Worldwide

by Cynthia English and Julie Ray

Adults in sub-Saharan Africa and former Soviet countries struggle most

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- At a time of year when people's thoughts often turn to those less fortunate, Gallup finds many people worldwide struggle to put adequate roofs over their families' heads, particularly adults in former Soviet countries and in sub-Saharan Africa. A median of 31% of adults in each region say there have been times in the past year when they did not have enough money to provide adequate shelter or housing for themselves or their families.

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Residents in Europe, the United States, and Canada, on average, are less likely to report struggling to afford shelter than residents in any other region.

Out of the 128 countries Gallup surveyed in 2009 and 2010, the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan records the highest percentage (76%) of residents who say they didn't have enough money for adequate housing. This percentage may at least partly reflect challenges the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe says Azerbaijan faces in its housing sector, including the lack of affordable housing and illegal construction.

However, about 4 in 10 in neighboring Georgia (43%) and in Turkmenistan (38%) and Kyrgyzstan (41%) also say they found themselves in this situation. Percentages are half as high in the Baltic countries of Latvia and Estonia, where 19% say they struggled with affording adequate shelter.

Housing Disparities in Sub-Saharan Africa

Roughly half or more of adults in Liberia (53%), Chad (51%), and Tanzania (46%) have been confronted with this issue, but people's situations are not the same across Africa. Despite enormous inflation in Zimbabwe in recent years, fewer than one in five (19%) report struggling to afford shelter. This percentage has remained relatively stable since 2006 and is on par with South Africa (15%).

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Haitians Struggle More Than Other Latin Americans

Given the devastating earthquake in Haiti last year, and the skyrocketing housing prices in its aftermath, it is not that surprising that Haitians are the most likely in Latin America to report struggling with shelter. Four in 10 Haitians say there were times when they could not afford adequate housing in the past year. But many across the region are struggling, including more than one in three (34%) in Haiti's immediate neighbor, the Dominican Republic.

Few in Developed Asia, Middle East Report Troubles

Singaporeans, at 1%, are the least likely in the world to report such struggles, and percentages are similarly low in many other countries of developed Asia. But in developing Asian countries, roughly half in Cambodia (50%), the Philippines (49%), and Afghanistan (47%) say they've faced this situation.

Fewer than 1 in 10 adults in Qatar (9%), the United Arab Emirates (9%), Lebanon (9%), and Israel (8%) say there were times when they didn't have enough money for adequate shelter. But while the overall average is low for the Middle East and North Africa, as many as 41% in Bahrain, where the government announced earlier this year that it would spend more than $1 billion to tackle the country's shortage of affordable housing, admit struggling.

Most Europeans, Canadians, and Americans Less Likely to Struggle

Americans, Canadians, and most Europeans fare better than most worldwide, but they are not exempt from housing struggles. Slightly more than 1 in 10 Americans (11%) faced times in the past year when they didn't have enough money for adequate housing -- on par with respondents in many eastern and southern European countries. Canadians fare slightly better; 5% say they struggled at times, which is similar to residents in western European countries.

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Bottom Line

Although what people may define as "adequate" housing or shelter varies worldwide, Gallup data show that many people around the world struggle to afford it. This highlights the global dilemma of meeting what is, along with being able to afford food for their families, one of the most basic of human needs.

For complete country-level results, see page 2.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact SocialandEconomicAnalysis@gallup.com or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone and face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in 125 countries, 2,000 adults in Russia, 4,150 adults in China, and 6,000 adults in India, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2009 and 2010. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranged from a low of ±1.7 percentage points in India to a high of ±4.7 percentage points in Haiti. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
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