Nice

Accordingly, raising residential building requirements in high-amenity areas should cause those areas to move gradually to the left.

That is from Jason Sorens at Dartmouth, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Comments

Sailer's "dirt gap" theory tested and found robust?

Yes, I will admit it, smart, successful people in desirable neighborhoods are liberals.

I think you spelled "rich, white and insulated" wrong.

smart, successful, *childless* people

The main reason that educated, high-income people trade off city amenities for cheap space is because babies come with *a lot* of accessories.

The second-hand toys from my Sister fill an entire bedroom, and I don't even have kids yet. Darn space hogs.

Babies do not acquire an abundance of possessions on their own.

"Yes, I will admit it, smart, successful people in desirable neighborhoods are liberals."

Ah yes, our benevolent overlords.

The hundred odd Syrian refugees taken in thus far have been placed in poor, rural areas, instead of the places Rayward and the SWPL inhabit. Virtue signalling is free. Being a hypocrite feels good. Ask Rayward.

Thomas,

From "How Global Elites Forsake Their Countrymen" by Peggy Noonan in the WSJ

"I close with a story that I haven’t seen in the mainstream press. This week the Daily Caller’s Peter Hasson reported that recent Syrian refugees being resettled in Virginia, were sent to the state’s poorest communities. Data from the State Department showed that almost all Virginia’s refugees since October “have been placed in towns with lower incomes and higher poverty rates, hours away from the wealthy suburbs outside of Washington, D.C.” Of 121 refugees, 112 were placed in communities at least 100 miles from the nation’s capital. The suburban counties of Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington—among the wealthiest in the nation, and home to high concentrations of those who create, and populate, government and the media—have received only nine refugees.
Some of the detachment isn’t unconscious. Some of it is sheer and clever self-protection. At least on some level they can take care of their own."

The federal government does not directly place refugees anywhere. It contracts this task out and refugees are placed partly on the resources the contractor can mobilize in a given community. The article is clear that the refugees who were not placed in Falls Church are being settled in Virginia's small cities and college towns. Anyway, the premise of the article is rather silly as refugees are subject to more scrutiny and background checks than anyone else except perhaps for people with security clearance.

Ricardo,

Federal contractors follow Federal regulations. If the Federal government mandated that refugees be placed in Georgestown, they would be placed in Georgestown...

But wait, the nice, decent, humanist, virtue signalling, compassionate people of Georgestown desperately want America to take refugees... As long as they are kept a long way from Georgestown.

My solution? Put them all in Georgestown. The U.S. will have a ban on economic migrants (they are not refugees) 10 minutes later.

They're being sent to poor communities because poor communities are cheap. If they were being sent to arlington people would be blowing a gasket at the fed'l government subsidizing $2,500 monthly rent for refugees to live in a 2 BR.

Urso,

Sending them to Arlington would be much cheaper. Why? Because the number would be essentially zero. People in Arlington aren't that stupid. Virtue signalling is only desirable if it is free (or close to free).

Thomas,

It's "mad virtue signally", not "virtue signalling" (at least according to Peggy Noonan)

This funny and interesting paper by Gilles Saint-Paul: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01213640/document

The logical policy prescription is a federal-level tax on locales with land-use restrictions. Artifically raising the price of housing drives out poorer residents, which produces negative externalities. Low-cost of living places disproportionately bear the brunt of providing government services to a low-income tax-base. Plus high cost of living drives down the birth rate, the ultimate externality.

The solution would be simple, score each state and municipal government on its land use restrictions. Add or subtract a fixed percentage to the income tax rate based on this score. I.e. San Franciscans may have to pay 10% more at the top marginal rate. Houstonians may get to pay 10% less. Note that this doesn't discourage city living, because once the municipalities become pro-growth their tax rates will fall immediately. Even before the lag of new housing comes online.

I think it's a politically feasible idea. Republicans would obviously go for it because it sticks it to Blue-staters (at least until they change their land-use restrictions in response). Most progressive Democrats would be sympathetic, it should massively benefit minorities, by bringing tons of affordable housing online in poor, urban cores. It would allow poor people to afford to live in places like New York and LA (rather than move to rural cheap Mississippi), where educational systems are better and there's more opportunity for economic mobility.

The existing poor in these areas would barely be affected by federal income tax surcharges, since they are in such a low tax bracket to begin with. (You could even exempt the low-income). The major opponents would probably be environmentalists and the Democratic donor class. The former for obvious reasons. The latter because they'd either see their income tax bill go up significantly (if their blue-state cities didn't change land-use regulation) or their property values collapse (if they do).

My experience in discussing land-use restrictions with the left is that they can't (or perhaps refuse to?) accept that these policies have a negative effect on affordable housing. To them, lack of affordable housing is a market failure and the way to fix it is IZ. #sigh

I consider myself pretty firmly on the left and completely accept that land use restrictions have a negative effect on affordable housing. Perhaps you're just talking to the wrong members of the left.

I assume IZ stands for inclusionary zoning.

"Houstonians may get to pay 10% less"

No.

Houston has the toughest land-use restrictions in the U.S. (and perhaps the most successful). It is true that Houston has no municipal zoning. However, Houston has restrictive covenants on land use that make zoning elsewhere look like legalized anarchy. The Houston business community generally opposes city zoning. However, essentially every member of the Houston business community lives in a neighborhood with merciless restrictive covenants. The "revealed preference" of essentially everyone is for ferocious zoning enforcement. Where do economists actually live? Where does Robert Shiller actually live? Where does Bryan Caplan actually live? Where does Brad DeLong actually live?

The revealed preference is small geographic locations with direct democracy and less than 1000 voters, which is not at all comfortable to a large cities regulations, and regulatory capture. Your argument is like saying the revealed preference of the Native Americans is a British king since they have a Native American Chief in each tribe.

Not at all comparable. Apologies I'm using talk to text.

Thomas,

The revealed preference of Native Americans is for Native American Chiefs (assuming such things still exist). Whether they favor the British King is irrelevant. The revealed preference of economists is for restrictive zoning as demonstrated by where they actually live.

To use a decent analogy, in a YouTube video Tino Sanandaji observed that 99% of the Swedish politicians who advocate Open Borders live in communities that are 100% ethnic Swedish. The same hypocrisy can be found in Germany, France, and of course, the USA. The revealed preference of politicians is for severe immigration restrictions, public posturing (and policies) notwithstanding.

Doug,

"Plus high cost of living drives down the birth rate, the ultimate externality"

That is almost certainly the exact opposite of the truth. Land use restrictions, including zoning, provide a degree of assurance that property value will remain stable (or rise) and that the quality of the local public schools will remain intact. Both factors tend to raise the birthrate not lower. The absence of land use restrictions (including zoning) would make child-bearing more risky by making local schools less predictable.

Yes, we see the evidence for this in the sky high birth rates in SF, NYC, etc.

BTW, the quote says "high cost of living."

You then refer to zoning and land use regulation.

I think you skipped a few steps there.

Harun,

SF and NYC have relatively low birth rates (at least in the expensive parts of town). SF has much tighter land use controls than NYC. In general, urban areas have quite low middle/upper class birth rates. Zoning is not the driving factor either way. People with money who want kids, tend to live in the suburbs.

In the suburbs, land use controls (including zoning) make schools (and life in general) more predictable / stable and contribute to family formation in a positive way.

Laws that restrict building don't have an effect on the birth rate which effect square footage per person in the household?

Thomas,

"Laws that restrict building don’t have an effect on the birth rate which effect square footage per person in the household?"

That's hard to parse. However, there are obviously two competing effects. Building restrictions almost certainly raise per-square foot costs. Conversely, they improve neighborhood and (more relevantly) school stability. The energy that goes into enforcing building restrictions in the suburbs, suggests that "homevoters" value neighborhood and school stability a lot.

This is bewildering nonsense. When people are debating whether to have children their first question is "Can we afford it?" and not "Can we be assured local land use restrictions will make schools more predictable over the medium-term?" If I heard prospective parents ask that question I would petition for their immediate sterilization. There are a multitude of factors that make cities less desirable than suburbs for having and raising children, and in many cases it is land use restrictions and zoning that exacerbate the disparity between the two.

coketown,

"There are a multitude of factors that make cities less desirable than suburbs for having and raising children, and in many cases it is land use restrictions and zoning that exacerbate the disparity between the two."

Suburban land use restrictions (as in de-facto bans on low-income apartments) are one of the key "multitude of factors" that make the suburbs better places to raise children. If suburban parents had lower expectations of school quality - school stability would they be less or more likely to have children?

By the way, “Can we afford it?” frequently (usually) amounts to "Can we afford a home in a neighborhood with decent schools"? One again, land use restrictions (zoning) improves the probability that if the answer was/is "yes", the answer will stay "yes".

One again - Once again

Data please, that suburbs don't have low income apartments.

Most suburbs have lower rent apartments also available.

And many expensive cities don't have "low income" apartments, really.

my suburb has low income apartments less than a block from the most expensive mansions.

Harun,

The question is not whether suburbs have any low-income apartments or not. Most suburbs probably have at least a few (low income apartments) at this point. The question is why suburbanites resist such incursions and why they use zoning (and other measures) to oppose such "Attractive Nuisances".

From a prior post of mine

I think opposition to zoning is rent-seeking pretending to be "free-market" libertarianism, and worse cynical exploitation of the "tragedy of the commons". Let me use a trivial example. Imagine a developer wants to build an low-income apartment building in a single-family, residential community. The building will bring crime, congestion, and lower quality schools to the neighborhood.

Of course, the development will be profitable for the developer and property owner who provides the land. Rent-seeking usually is profitable. Exploiting the tragedy of the commons usually is profitable. However, it is still unjustifiable (and economically irrational) exploitation.

What you decry as “exclusionary zoning” is simply logical (and correct) human behavior. Keeping crime, congestion, and lower quality schools out of a community is simply rationale and reasonable. In your worldview, being a “free-rider” in a community is legitimate and appropriate. People who exploit the tragedy of the common always have some excuse for their personal depredations. Rent-seekers always have their pretenses.

In your worldview, putting thieves in prison is “exclusionary zoning” because it enables non-thieves to enjoy the rents associated with living in a safer, lower-crime society. Clearly, the vast majority of folks don’t agree.

As for the literature, let me offer

“An Economic History of Zoning and a Cure for Its Exclusionary Effects”

Quote

“The purpose of this historical inquiry is to offer a test of the thesis of my book, The Homevoter Hypothesis (2001). Its central idea is that the way to understand local government behavior is to see it through the eyes of homeowners — and not renters, developers, business interests, or machine politicians — who are resident in the community. Homeowners have a special interest in their community that helps overcome the free-rider problem in public affairs. For most of them, a home is by far their largest financial asset, and, unlike corporate stock owners, homeowners cannot diversify their holdings among several communities. Fear of a capital loss to their major asset and desire to increase its value motivate owners of homes to become “homevoters.” They vote their homes in local elections and at public hearings.”

And (from the Supreme Court decision upholding zoning as Constitutional)

apartments are “a mere parasite, constructed in order to take advantage of the open spaces and attractive surroundings created by the residential character of the district”

See also “ZONING: A REPLY TO THE CRITICS” by BRADLEY C. KARKKAINEN.

As for professional economists, it appear that they generally strongly support zoning. Let me offer, Robert Shiller as an example. Officially, he not a big fan of zoning. However, he lives in a community zoned for multi-acre lots. I have yet to find an economist who doesn’t live in an “exclusionary” zoned community. Presumably they do exist.

The phrase here is “revealed preference”.

Peter,

I don't disagree with your point. Rich people prefer land-use restrictions, because the higher cost of housing is outweighed by the utility of living around fewer poor people. Poor Americans in general bring crime, worsen schools, drag on local budgets, and have a whole litany of social pathologies. But land-use restrictions don't actually decrease the number of poor people, they simply shift them to another lower-cost of living location. That's why I explicitly referred to it as a national-level externality.

Similarly the revealed preference of coal-driven power-plants shows that they prefer states with the least air pollution regulations. That doesn't imply that optimal national-level coal policy is zero air regulation. The optimal local-level land-use restriction may still be restrictive. But at the very least states and cities that drive poor people and their pathologies to other states should have to internalize that cost. If poor people keep moving from New York to Nebraska, it's only fair that New York should compensate Nebraska for the privilege.

Doug,

"But land-use restrictions don’t actually decrease the number of poor people, they simply shift them to another lower-cost of living location."

Indeed, that's the desired goal in the U.S., and basically everywhere else in the world where such issues arise. How many Belgians of any means live in Molenbeek? How many Frenchmen (or Frenchwomen) live in the banlieues? How many Swedes live in Rosengård?

Land use restrictions (including zoning) serve to separate the middle-class (and up) from the negative effects of living near poor people. As such they make family life more attractive and more stable yielding what higher birth rates (what your describe as the ultimate externality)..

So spot check. I used CATO's ranking of state-level land regulation and compared it to state-level total fertility rate. Here are the fertility rates of the five states with the least land-use regulation: Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. All but one (Alabama) have above the average US total fertility rate. The states with the most land-use regulation are New Jersey, Maryland, California and Maine. All have below national average TFR.

Looking at it from the other end, the states with the highest fertility are Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska and Nebraska. All are ranked 25 or higher in land-use freedom index. The states with the lowest TFR are Rhode Island, Mass., New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont. All have a rank of 39 or higher.

We see very significant correlation between fertility and land-use restrictions. That's not an iron-cals case for causality, but it makes the point you're making pretty hard to believe. If you're arguing that land-use restrictions are pro-natal, then you need to have some sort of mechanism or factor that explains why the correlation runs in the exact opposite direction.

http://www.freedominthe50states.org/land
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_and_territories_by_fertility_rate

Doug,

I think you are confusing correlation and causation. The states with the highest TFR (Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, Alaska and Nebraska) are (probably) the states with the lowest need for state-level land use regulation. A reasonable person would expect low-density, relatively homogeneous states to have high TFR, and less regulation, and they do.

Remember the "Regulation and Distrust–The Ominous Update" blog post from yesterday? The countries with the fewest minimum wage rules were Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. Do you really think those are the countries with the least concern for poorly paid workers? Or are those the countries with the lowest need for minimum wage rules? The latter seems far more likely.

The germane question is not whether NY has more or fewer land use restrictions than UT (presumably it has more). It is also not whether NY has a higher TFR than UT (it does not), but whether fewer land use restrictions would tend to raise or lower middle-class (and up) fertility in NY.

The question isn't whether o

Drop "The question isn’t whether o"

Doug,

A somewhat important point in this context is that most land use controls are local, not state. That might be less true along the California coast. However, Palo Alto's controls appear to be quite local.

That makes the TFR - state land use controls correlation materially less meaningful.

I think your idea is problematic but some restriction could be considered unconstitutional restrictions of intrastate commerce. People need to live somewhere.Perhaps all land issues and taxes should be federal as that is what we defend at the federal level.

Another, even simpler implementation may simply be to tax states based on per capita net interstate migration. States that are losing a large percentage of their population pay a tax surcharge. States that receive get a tax rebate.

Doug,

"States that are losing a large percentage of their population pay a tax surcharge. States that receive get a tax rebate."

States can gain and lose lots of people for a variety of reasons... When auto-manufacturing declined, MI lost quite a few people. Land use controls were not the driving factor.

This is a pretty stupid program, but I just want to highlight the stupidest part.

Places like NYC and LA have tons of poor people. In Manhattan the median income for a white family is $175,000. The median income for a black family is $30,000. You can fill in the blanks on the relevant housing values.

Poor people are a negative externality. The physical buildings people live in aren't all that different. The land the commuting distance isn't all that different. Your housing price is the price of having the right neighbors. The wrong neighbors destroy value.

Gentrification, which dramatically raises the value of existing land, is all about pushing poor people out. We should be appalled that huge swaths of incredibly value real estate is being ruined by the presence of poor people. You want to dramatically increase the amount of affordable middle class housing. Drive the underclass out of the cities and anywhere else within commuting distance. Most people move to the suburbs to get away from these people. They subject themselves to humiliating HOAs just to make sure they can keep the wrong sort of people out of their cul-de-sac or school district. Just let these people discriminate and they won't have to use zoning to protect themselves.

Poor people are a negative externality. The physical buildings people live in aren’t all that different. The land the commuting distance isn’t all that different. Your housing price is the price of having the right neighbors. The wrong neighbors destroy value.

Gentrification, which dramatically raises the value of existing land, is all about pushing poor people out. We should be appalled that huge swaths of incredibly value real estate is being ruined by the presence of poor people. You want to dramatically increase the amount of affordable middle class housing. Drive the underclass out of the cities and anywhere else within commuting distance. Most people move to the suburbs to get away from these people. They subject themselves to humiliating HOAs just to make sure they can keep the wrong sort of people out of their cul-de-sac or school district. Just let these people discriminate and they won’t have to use zoning to protect themselves.

If that is true having a well trained police 24/7 on each street on each block in those parts of in Manhattan might be worth the costs.

Prior sentence from the abstract: "It is hypothesized that [rich households that highly value amenities] will be more Democratic."

Why on Earth would that be your hypothesis? Only liberals want to have fun? This begs the question in the true sense. There is no evidence for this at all in the paper.

Also, what's an amenity?

Is access to fishing holes an amenity?

Or only 3 star Michelin restaurants?

Amenities = Access to UMC and Elite jobs

There's a civil war going on. The right has begun to wake up to it.

I wish the paper would have also explored this more. One basic factor at work is that controlled for income and education conservatives tend to have bigger families. Having a lot of kids means less time and money for dining out, cultural excursions, outdoor recreation, etc. If you got three toddlers you're spending the weekend re-watching Frozen, not wine-tasting in Napa.

Monsters, Inc.

This list of most conservative and liberal cities in California says that, even if there is drift, it hasn't accomplished much. The conservative side has the amenities for the most part.

http://blog.sfgate.com/scavenger/2009/05/19/the-most-conservative-and-liberal-california-cities-are/

(Bad formatting with ads in the middle of the list.)

That explains it: Democrats are just those people who want government to provide more amenities.

Nothing in the paper says "government-provided." The amenities they're talking about are things like restaurants.

You missed the joke

Sorry if your post was snark. On this blog you can't often tell.

I thought it meant beaches. Ski slopes. Your lifestyle may very I guess.

A high rise environment is quite similar to the burrows of the naked mole rat so a concomitant eusociality should perhaps not be unexpected. Parallel evolution. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naked_mole-rat

Naked mole rats are notoriously liberal--thus their nakedness.

Yes, all those virtue-signaling childless goosestepping lefties in the condos sacrifice their individuality for the good of hive. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_inclusive_fitness

The absence of reference to family structure is pretty surprising:
http://andrewgelman.com/2008/11/06/affordable_fami/

Higher density areas will have more amenities, just to server the additional people. All this paper proves is that liberals like higher density areas.

Comments for this post are closed