The Research Methods for Discovering Housing Inequalities in Socio-Biographical Studies
This chapter is based on data from the socio-biographical project. Two main data sources were used throughout the course of this study: first, a questionnaire (a nationwide-Russian survey with 5081 respondents) and, second, biographical interviews. The data was collected in 2015 and contained information concerning the auto/biographies, including their housing conditions and social experiences. In this paper, I focus mainly on the evaluation of this source material and on the revelations of the main advantages and limitations of the research methodology. The primary research question seeks to understand what the structures are that lead to inequality in the distribution of housing and the rights of ownership. A more specific sub-question can be formulated as follows: What are the housing conditions and opportunities, meaning of housing for people of different social classes and generations in post-Soviet Russia? Generally, the research data showed that the individual, his/her environment, family, and availability of different forms of capital (cultural, human, social, family) determine the trajectory of social mobility, which is objectified in his housing status. As a result of data reflection, I conclude that the quantitative data (survey/door-to-door polls of residents/census/online survey, housing stock) allow the discovery of general picture of housing conditions and inequalities. But it does not allow the disclose of the mechanisms that form housing inequalities, that is, accessibility and the quality of an individual’s housing conditions, constructing biography by family members and surroundings. As housing question is strongly connected with family and space interactions, it is necessary to turn to methods studying of auto/biographical experiences—interviews, participant observations. The trends of cultural turns (Bennett et al. in Culture, class, distinction. Routledge, Abingdon, 2009) have played important roles in housing research. Therefore, making detailed studies of the housing practices and inequalities of a local territory are implemented in the format of ethnographic case studies.