All of us live with the knowledge the living in HK or London or even Bandra is an expensive affair. Many of us have elaborate financial theories for why this is so. This article comes up with a novel explanation for why living in the big financial & tech capitals of the major economies is becoming prohibitively expensive – it is all happening due to single women.

“We study urban development and its social, physical and environmental impacts. We recently examined two decades of cultural transitions in Hong Kong with a focus on how the changing status of women and attitudes toward marriage have altered the real estate market. What we found is that single women in Hong Kong have played a surprising and little-studied role in gentrification. Women have been marrying later in life around the world for many years…Throughout the second half of the 20th century, East and Southeast Asia, in particular, witnessed a growing number of single men and women. From 1950 to 1990, the number of young single women across Asia – China excluded – increased almost fourfold, from 22 million to 82 million…This trend has produced a ripple effect throughout the economy, including the property market and local redevelopment, as the increased number of single women – who are also attaining higher-paid jobs – boosts demand for housing.”
So how big is this effect? The authors have done some useful number crunching. “We analyzed standardized census data from 1986 to 2006 across all of Hong Kong, with a focus on exploring the impact of women on neighborhoods that were gentrifying. The analysis, which took four years to complete, identified about 34 percent of Hong Kong as experiencing gentrification…A telltale sign of gentrification is the shift from rentals to owner-occupied housing. The share of units with owners living in them in these areas climbed from 45.5 percent in 1986 to 64.2 percent two decades later.

During the same time period, the number of people employed in traditional, working-class sectors like manufacturing more than halved, from 177,917 in 1986 to 73,870 in 2006. At the same time, the number of residents employed in finance, insurance, real estate and business services tripled, from 49,276 in 1986 to 150,237 in 2006…Single women increased by 53.2 percent over the two decades, compared with a rise of just 15.2 percent among single men…As a result, the share of households led by single women, whether never-married or divorced, jumped to 47.1 percent in 2006 from just 25.8 percent two decades earlier.”


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