Donald Houston

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Environmental sustainability, economic growth and social inclusion - competing or complementary goals?

How can growth be made more inclusive?

Underemployment in the gig economy.

Social Flood Vulnerability Indices - protecting the rich?

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Personal profile


My research mostly relates to social inequalities within and between urban and regional labour markets. I work across disciplines, including economics, social policy, public health and town planning. The UK is a good place to study economic geography because it is one of the most geographically unequal economies in the developed world. I am continually shocked by government policies, particularly welfare reforms, that are blind to geography. Not only are such policies usually detrimental to the most marginalised people and places, they often misdiagnose the causes of employment problems in weak local labour markets. 

I was appointed Professor of Geography and Head of Department at Portsmouth in 2016. Before that, I held a Senior Research Fellowship awarded by the Urban Studies Foundation at the University of Glasgow (2014-16). Previously, I held lecturing positions in Human Geography at the University of St Andrews (2010-14) and the University of Dundee (2002-10). I have held visiting positions at the University of Illinois and the University of Vaxjo, Sweden. I was Director of the Scottish Cities Knowledge Centre, a multi-disciplinary and cross-institution knowledge exchange initiative focussed on urban economic development (2013-16). My doctorate and post-doctoral research were conducted in Urban Studies at the University of Glasgow (1996-2002). My Master's degree is in Transportation Planning Policy from the University of Newcastle, awarded in 1995. I graduated with a degree in Geography from the University of Aberdeen in 1993.

Research Interests

  • Poverty, inequality and social justice
  • Welfare reform and employability
  • Labour market change
  • Urban and regional restructuring
  • Immobility, segregation and migration
  • Housing affordability
  • Transport exclusion
  • Urban planning and flooding

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action


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