Understanding the transition to independent living among urban youth: A decomposition analysis for Hong Kong

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The trends and determinants of young adults' living arrangements across a wide range of societies have been a hot topic in multi–disciplinary literature on contemporary youth transitions and urban and housing studies. Extant literature has identified both macro–structural and micro–individual factors to explain the living arrangements of young adults in developed and developing societies. Empirical studies to assess their relative contribution to the spatial and temporal heterogeneity in young people's transition to adulthood, however, remain scarce. This paper attempts to fill this research gap by conducting a case study of Hong Kong young adults. Through descriptive and regression analyses of the population census data in 1991, 2001, and 2011, the paper identifies a declining trend in independent living arrangements in Hong Kong over the past two decades. Such change has been found to be associated with a compositional shift of young adults in their socio-economic characteristics in terms of place of birth, ethnicity, educational attainment, and income and employment status. Further decomposition analysis revealed that over 80% of the change could be attributed to urban institutional and policy contexts beyond the control of young individuals. The pursuit of residential independence among young adults has become an increasingly challenging task in this Asian's world city because of the worsening structural and institutional environments in the 2000s. The case study highlighted the selective nature of Hong Kong's welfare regime, which prioritizes the extension of assistance and benefits to the elderly at the relative neglect of the demand of young adults. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-148
JournalHabitat International
Early online dateNov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016



Hu, F. Z., & Chou, K. L. (2016). Understanding the transition to independent living among urban youth: A decomposition analysis for Hong Kong. Habitat International, 51, 141-148.


  • Independent living
  • Urban youth
  • Transition to adulthood
  • Hong Kong