In 2019, Dr. Ng Kok Hoe was part of two important studies in Singapore. First, he led the first nationwide street count of homelessness in the country, and second, he was part of the Minimum Income Standard or MIS study, which in a participatory manner determined the household budgets necessary to meet the basic needs of ordinary Singaporeans. Starting with a discussion of his research interests in housing and income insecurity, we hear more about these two studies and the bridging of research, practice, and policy with regard to social work and social service.
Although the journal article was ostensibly focused on Singaporean perceptions of the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) – and how this housing policy may influence the decisions of home-owners when choosing a flat – the ST article zoomed in on the preferences of home-owners to not live close to HDB public rental blocks (ST, Mar. 22). It cited the lead researcher, Associate Professor Leong Chan-Hoong of the Singapore University of Social Sciences, who concluded: “After price and location, proximity to public rental flats would be the variable that discourages a person from buying a unit”.
Given the challenges associated with obtaining complete data of the socio-economic diversity of Singapore’s top schools, Chua et al.’s (2019) research strategy of using 40 years of junior college (JC) yearbooks (1971 to 2010) as data – to study the influence of neighbourhoods, gender, and ethnicity on elite school enrolment – is therefore a very interesting workaround.
Three newspapers – ST, TODAY, and BT – reported on the same research study by the National University of Singapore on intergenerational “housing wealth”, yet they all failed to interrogate the design and findings of the study (in this vein, to ask the researchers tougher questions about their research) or to question the proposed causal mechanisms linking a Singaporean’s housing or neighbourhood in childhood to his or her future “economic status” (represented by housing wealth).