Professor Donald Houston

Professor Donald Houston

The Department of Strategy and International Business
Professor of Regional Economic Development

Contact details

City-Regional Economic Development Institute Birmingham Business School
University House
Edgbaston Park Road
B15 2TY

Donald Houston specialises in local labour markets, in particular unemployment, economic inactivity, health, migration and commuting.  Other research interests include housing, transport and flooding.  He has held a number of research grants and projects funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), charities and local and central government.  He was seconded to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in 2023 and continues an association with ONS.


  • PhD, “Spatial Barriers to Employment Within Metropolitan Areas”, 2002
  • MSc in Transportation Planning & Policy, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1995
  • BSc (Hons) in Geography, University of Aberdeen, 1993


Donald jointed City-REDI in 2023 from the University of Portsmouth, where he was Professor of Economic Geography, Head of the Department of Geography (2016-19) and Deputy Director of the ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership (2019-22).  Before that, he was Director of the Scottish Cities Knowledge Centre (2013-16) and Professor of Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow.  In 2023, he undertook a secondment to the Office for National Statistics to work on the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on labour supply.

Donald studied for his doctorate in the Department of Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow (1996-99), after which he worked as a Research Fellow on a range of projects commissioned by central government department and agencies on different aspects of local economic change, housing and health, and urban regeneration (1999-2002).  He obtained his first tenured lectureship in Human Geography at the University of Dundee (2002-10) after which he moved to a Senior Lectureship in Housing & Urban Studies in the Centre for Housing Research at the University of St Andrews (2010-14).

Donald was awarded an ESRC UK In a Changing Europe Senior Fellowship (2022-25) entitled “Levelling Up Labour Supply” to investigate the impacts of Brexit and the Coronavirus pandemic on labour supply.  This work also investigates the consequences of labour shortages for economic recovery across different national, regional and local labour markets across the UK and the European Single Market.

Donald has served on the ESRC’s Grant Assessment Panel (2015-17), ESRC’s UK In a Changing Europe Advisory Board (2019-22) and as a reviewer for the Research Council of Norway (2019-20).  He served on the Editorial Board of the journal Work, Employment & Society (2010-13).  He was on the Advisory Board of the Work Foundation (2012-15) and a member of the National Research Committee of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (2006-10).


Research interests

  • local labour markets
  • unemployment
  • economic inactivity
  • demography
  • health
  • migration
  • commuting
  • housing
  • transport
  • flooding

 Current projects

  • “Levelling Up Labour Supply”, ESRC UK In a Changing Europe Senior Fellowship, 2022-25

Other activities

  • ESRC Grant Assessment Panel (2015-17)
  • ESRC UK In a Changing Europe Advisory Board (2019-22)
  • Research Council of Norway panel member (2019-20)
  • Editorial Board, Work, Employment & Society (2010-13) Advisory Board, Work Foundation (2012-15)
  • National Research Committee, Royal Scottish Geographical Society (2006-10)


Refereed Journal Papers

Reuschke, D. & Houston, D. (2022)  The impact of Long COVID on the UK workforce, Applied Economics Letters, Advance online publication

Houston, D., Ball, T., Werritty, A., & Black, A. R. (2021). Social Influences on Flood Preparedness and Mitigation Measures Adopted by People Living with Flood Risk. Water, 13(21), 2972. MDPI AG.

Houston, D., Werritty, A., Ball, T., & Black, A. (2021). Environmental vulnerability and resilience: social differentiation in short- and long-term flood impacts. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 46(1), 102-119. doi:10.1111/tran.12408

Houston, D., Varna, G., & Docherty, I. (2021). The political economy of, and practical policies for, inclusive growth. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 14(1), 197-215. doi:10.1093/cjres/rsaa039

Houston, D. (2020) Local resistance to rising unemployment in the context of the COVID‐19 mitigation policies across Great Britain, Regional Science, Policy & Practice, 12, pp.1189-1209,

Reuschke, D. and Houston, D. (2020a), Revisiting the gender gap in commuting through self-employment, Journal of Transport Geography,

Reuschke, D., Houston, D. (2020b) The intra-urban residential and workplace locations of small business owners, Journal of Urban Affairs, DOI: 10.1080/07352166.2020.1768103

Sissons, P. and Houston, D. (2018) Changes in transitions from private renting to homeownership in the context of rapidly rising house prices, Housing Studies, DOI: 10.1080/02673037.2018.1432754

Houston, D. and Reuschke, D. (2017)  City economies and microbusiness growth. Urban Studies, 54(14), pp.3199-3217.

Fothergill, S. and Houston, D. (2016) Are big cities really the motors of regional economic growth?  Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 9(2), pp.319-334.

Reuschke, D. and Houston, D. (2016) The importance of housing and neighbourhood resources for urban microbusinesses, European Planning Studies, 24(6), pp.1216-1235.

Kampanellou, E. and Houston, D. (2016) The health impacts of changing occupation and the contemporary manufacturing and service sectors on men and women.  Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 7(4) pp.368-385.

Tilley, S. and Houston, D. (2016)  The gender turnaround: young women now travelling more than young men.  Journal of Transport Geography, 54, pp.349–358.

Houston, D. and Tilley, S. (2015)  Fare's fair? Concessionary travel policy and social justice.  Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 24(2), pp. 187-207.

Reid, L. and Houston, D.S. (2013) Low-carbon housing: a green wolf in sheep’s clothing?  Housing Studies, 28(1), 1-9.

Houston DS, and Sissons P (2012)  The Changing Geography of Privately Rented Housing in England and Wales.  Urban Studies, 49(4), 795-819.

Lindsay, C. and Houston, D. (2012)  Fit for purpose? Welfare reform and challenges for health and labour market policy in the UK.  Environment & Planning A, 43, p.703-721.

Houston, D.S. (2010)  Changing Ethnic Segregation and Housing Disadvantage in Dundee.  Scottish Geographic Journal, 126(4), p.285-298.

Houston, D. and Lindsay, C. (2010)  Fit for Work? Challenges for the reform of disability benefits in the UK.  Policy Studies, 31(2), p.133-142.

Beatty, C., Fothergill, S., Houston, D. and Powell, R. (2010) Bringing the numbers on incapacity benefits down: do women need a different approach?  Policy Studies, 31(2), p.143-162.

Beatty, C., Fothergill, S., Houston, D., Powell, R. and Sissons, P. (2009)  A Gendered Theory of Employment, Unemployment and Sickness.  Environment and Planning C, 27(6), p.958-974.

Findlay, A.M., Harrison, R., Houston, D.S., Mason, C. and McCollum, D. (2009)  Escalators, Elevators and Travelators: Scots’ occupational mobility in SE England.  Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 35(6), p.861-879.

Houston, D.S., Findlay, A.M., Harrison, R. and Mason, C. (2008)  Can Attracting the Creative Class Boost Economic Growth in Old Industrial Regions?  Geografiska Annaler B 90(2), 133-149.

Findlay, A.M., Harrison, R., Houston, D.S., Mason, C. and McCollum, D. (2008)  Getting off the escalator? A study of Scots out-migration from a global city-region.  Environment and Planning A, 40, 2169-2185.

Findlay, A.M. and Houston, D.S. (2005) Migration, Economy and Environment: A Review of Contemporary Drivers of Migration to Scotland.  Prace Geograficzne, 202, 125-144.

Houston, D.S. (2005)  Methods to Test the Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis.  Economic Geography, 81(4), 407-434.

Houston, D.S. (2005)  Employability, Skills Mismatch and Spatial Mismatch in Metropolitan Labour Markets.  Urban Studies, 42(2), 221-243.

Houston, D.S.  (2003)  The role of migration in the decline of services in rural England.  European Research in Regional Science, vol.12, 41-58.

Houston, D.S. (2001)  Testing the Spatial Mismatch Hypothesis in the United Kingdom Using Evidence from Firm Relocations, European Research in Regional Science, vol. 11, 134-151.

Houston, D.S. (1998)  Job Proximity and the Urban Employment Problem: Do Suitable Nearby Jobs Improve Neighbourhood Employment Rates? A comment.  Urban Studies, 35(12), 2353-2357.

Book and Journal Special Issue commissioning and editing

Lindsay, C. and Houston, D. (Eds) (2013)  Disability Benefits, Welfare Reform and Employment Policy.  London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Lindsay, C. and Houston, D. (Eds) (2010)  Fit For Work? Health, Employability and Challenges for the UK Welfare Reform Agenda, Policy Studies, Volume 31, Issue 2.

Book Chapters, Reports & Articles

Houston, D. & Sissons, P. (2022)  Shortage of workers threatens UK recovery – here’s why and what to do about it, The Conversation, 18th May.

Lindsay, C., Houston, D., Byrne, G. P., & Stewart, R. (2020). Matching People to Jobs and Hours: Drivers and Productivity Impacts of Under-employment. ESRC Productivity Insights Network. 

Houston, D. (2020) Local and regional impacts on unemployment of the Covid-19 restrictions in the United Kingdom, Written evidence to the BEIS Parliamentary Inquiry ‘COV0124 The impact of coronavirus on businesses and workers’.

Houston, D. (2017)  Five maps that will change how you view the world, The Conversation, Article No. 74967, 22nd March 2017.

Houston, D. (2016) Urban Flooding, Vulnerability and Justice, In Archer, K. and Bezdecny, K. (Eds) Handbook of Cities and the Environment, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, p.243-262.

Christie, L., Houston, D. & Docherty, I. (2014) Region-Wide City Collaboration in Scotland, Regions Magazine, 294:1, 4-5, DOI: 10.1080/13673882.2014.10850492

Houston, D., Reuschke, D., Sabater, A., Maynard, K. and Stewart, N. (2014) Gaps in the Housing Safety Net.  London, Shelter.

Lindsay, C. and Houston, D. (2013)  Fit for Work? Representations and Explanations of the Disability Benefits ‘Crisis’ in the UK and beyond.  In Lindsay, C. and Houston, D. (Eds) Disability Benefits, Welfare Reform and Employment Policy.  London, Palgrave Macmillan, p.1-14.

Houston, D. and Lindsay, C. (2013)  Fit for Purpose? Lessons for policies to address the disability benefits ‘crisis’.  In Lindsay, C. and Houston, D. (Eds) Disability Benefits, Welfare Reform and Employment Policy.  London, Palgrave Macmillan, p.233-241.

Beatty, C., Fothergill, S. and Houston, D. (2013)  The Impact of the UK’s Disability Benefit Reforms.  In Lindsay, C. and Houston, D. (Eds) Disability Benefits, Welfare Reform and Employment Policy.  London, Palgrave Macmillan, p.134-152.

Houston, D. (2012)  Spatial mismatch and transport barriers to employment.  ‘Spotlight’ article in Skills Development Scotland newsletter, Spring 2012, pp.5.

Houston, D.S. (2012)  Policies to address spatial mismatch.  In Smith, S.J., Elsinga, M., O’Mahony, L.F., Eng, W.S., Wachter, S. and Wood, G. (Eds) International Encyclopaedia of Housing and Home, vol.5, pp.274-279.  Oxford, Elsevier.

Houston, D., Werritty, A., Basset, D., Geddes, A., Hoolachan, A. and Mcmillan, M. (2011)  Pluvial flood risk in urban areas: the invisible hazard.  Bristol, the Policy Press with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, pp.96.

Docherty, I., Giuliano, G. and Houston, D. (2008)  Connected Cities.  In Knowles, R., Shaw, J. and Docherty, I. (Eds) Transport Geographies: mobilities, flows and spaces.  Blackwell, Oxford, p.83-101.

Werritty, A., Houston, D.S., Ball, T., Tavendale, A. and Black, A. (2007)  Exploring the Social Impacts of Flooding and Flood Risk in Scotland.  Edinburgh, Scottish Executive, pp.137.

Harvey, J. and Houston, D. (2005)  The Impact of the Single Room Rent Reform.  London, Department for Work and Pensions, Research Report No.243, pp.78.

Houston, D. and Allen, K. (2004)  The Housing Needs of Black and Minority Ethnic Communities in Angus and Dundee.  Edinburgh, Communities Scotland, Research Report No.38, pp.115.

Houston, D.S., Dean, J. and Barr, K. (2002) Research on the Private Rented Sector in Scotland.  Edinburgh, The Scottish Executive, pp.75.

Houston, D.S., Pryce, G. and Kemp, P. (2002)  A Review of the Private Rented Sector in Wales.  Cardiff, Welsh Assembly Government, Housing Research Report 01/02, pp.98.

Houston, D.S. (2000)  Evidence to the House of Commons Education and Employment Committee ‘Employability and Jobs: is there a jobs gap?’ Inquiry, Fourth Report, Volume II, Minutes of Evidence and Appendices, p.93-95.  London, HMSO.

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