Red States Eat Blue States’ Lunch, Grow Up to Be Blue States

Low costs and regulatory barriers are attracting people to red states--thus turning them purple and blue.

red-states-blue-states-migration

An unsigned American Interest article titled “Red States Eat Blue States’ Lunch” reports,

The West and the South—not California or the Northeast—are apparently the places to move these days. In a piece on Denver’s economy, the WSJ provides a list of the urban areas that have been receiving the most in-migration since 2010. Houston, Dallas, Austin, Phoenix, Denver, San Antonio, Charlotte, Atlanta, Tampa, and Orlando make the top ten. Texas, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, and Georgia are generally red states, and though Colorado is nominally a blue state, its business climate more closely resembles that of Texas than that of California.

[…]

As Joel Kotkin has argued many times, red states are eating blue states’ lunch, stealing away talented young workers and innovative businesses by offering lower costs of living, higher qualities of life, and more favorable tax and regulatory environments than anything coastal blue citadels can offer. And this is happening despite blue cities’ attempts to remain culturally enticing.

While the coastal cities have several advantages—among which are the coasts themselves—there’s an attractive value to more space, lower housing costs, lower taxes, and less regulation. (Indeed, searching for images for this post, I’ve stumbled on related stories like “Is Life Better in America’s Red States?” in the NYT from January and “1,000 People a Day: Why Red States Are Getting Richer and Blue States Poorer” from the Heritage Foundation from June.)

But here’s the thing: while the near-term political effect of this has been to increase the power of red states, the longer term impact has been to turn them into purple and even blue states. First, by definition, the in-migrants to these cities and states are from somewhere else. While some are coming from the rural areas and poorer red states, many are coming from the Rust Belt and even the coasts. That brings with it—again, by definition—more cultural diversity and less provincialism. Second, clustering of high talent, high-earning individuals brings with it an increased desire for infrastructure and regulation to accommodate the new metropolis. And, given that someone has to pay for that, increased taxes come with that.  Indeed, as Richard Florida notes in the above-linked NYT piece that “voters in four red states — Alaska, Nebraska, South Dakota and Arkansas — supported referendums in November to raise their state minimum wage. And not just by a little. Controlling for the cost of living, they will have wage floors that are higher than those of many blue states.”

Indeed, most if not all of the cities listed in the WSJ piece (Houston, Dallas, Austin, Phoenix, Denver, San Antonio, Charlotte, Atlanta, Tampa, and Orlando) are purple if not already blue. The same holds true of many states on the list. Florida is a classic swing (purple) state but it’s gone blue the last two cycles plus 1996 and 1976; in most cases, the margin has been thin either way. North Carolina went for Obama in 2008 (if just barely: 50 to 49) and just barely snapped back into the red column in 2012 (50 to 48). Georgia has mostly been red but went blue in 1992, 1980, and 1976—albeit with a native son (Jimmy Carter) on the ticket in the last two. Arizona is perhaps the only true red state on the list, having voted Republican in all modern presidential elections save 1996 and has actually increased its margins in recent years.

My own home state of Virginia isn’t on the list because its growth sport happened a decade earlier, surging in response to an explosion of jobs in the tech and government-related sectors. It remained loyally red even in through the Carter and Clinton aberrations, when many Southern states voted for a Southern Democrat. Yet it’s gone for Obama the last two cycles and has a Democratic governor and two Democratic Senators now. The trend is too small but we’re at best purple and quite arguably blue at this point. And that’s mostly a function of a mass influx into the Northern Virginia region that’s within commuting distance of DC; the rest of Virginia is still the Deep South.

 

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. TheoNott says:

    To me, the observation that people and investment flows from Blue States to Red States has always been easily explained by the fact that workers and capital naturally flow from places where they are already in abundance (e.g. dense, developed coastal states) to places where they are not (e.g. empty, underdeveloped interior states) so they can get a better return on their “investment”, so to speak. The fact that these migrants generally proceed to vote Democrats into power in their new homes suggests they were never fleeing Democratic policies.

  2. Rick DeMent says:

    You can see this work on a small scale all the time. One of the big car manufacturing companies in our area decided to take advantage of the cheap land and open space in the exurbs and relocated to a brand new massive world headquarters. The people who worked there followed and started to gobble up cheap(er) housing sitting on low tax property, driving up prices. All of a sudden the water and sewer infrastructure was having a hard time keeping up with the new mcmansions that were being thrown up. Kids where being stuck in trailers at the local middle and high schools. Older residents were being priced out of their homes as property values rapidly went up and taxes went up. But demand for new infrastructure, schools, and roads also when up and even the taxes generated by higher property values couldn’t keep up. Bonds were approved, building went into a frenzy. People were getting rich as demand for new services went through the roof and all the money that was sloshing around as a result was being spent. Times were good but the older residents were getting squeezed out but at least they were getting huge returns on their housing investment as they left. But taxes were still going going up. Older residents were up in arms, they never asked for this, never wanted it. They moved there specifically because they liked the small town feel and the sleepy atmosphere.

    Then all the major capital projects were finally completed and things settled down a bit. Then the recession came that the layoffs at the car company were epic. But the sewers were still there, the giant high school, middle school and municipal buildings were still there and the debt service was still being paid off. Housing values dropped and people started to panic sell.

    All of a sudden another sleepy town up the road started seeing an uptick in new residence as people got other jobs and wanted to escape the higher taxes of the formerly sleepy community.

    New homes were being built, schools were getting crowded … and the cycle began anew.

  3. grumpy realist says:

    You have a higher density of people, you need more infrastructure. Which means higher taxes. It’s as simple as that.

    If the low-tax, low amenity states were so fantastic, why aren’t they already full of libertarians? Why does Doug work in the D.C. area when he could move to such a marvelously low-tax state such as Kansas? Ditto for Megan McArgle, or Rush Limbaugh, or Grover Norquist, or any other of the “taxes are BAD!” crowd?

    Why aren’t they putting their money where their mouths are, if tax levels are the most important thing?

  4. gVOR08 says:

    As usual, Dr. K has been there and done that.

    …someone who is careless, cynical, or both, could easily take the faster growth of these states as evidence that conservative economic policies work.

    A conservative magazine being careless, cynical, or both. Imagine that.

    I’ll be moving to FL next year. Has to do with family, weather, beaches, and cheap housing (post bust). Conservative politics and Florida Man cause me considerable second thoughts.

  5. gVOR08 says:

    James, “Grow Up to Be Blue States” is particularly apt phrasing.

  6. Modulo Myself says:

    This article is just an insecure way of saying that the conventionally desirable places to live for ambitious people (NY, SF, DC, LA, and a few others) are really difficult to live in. It’s also a way of saying that it’s uncommon for someone to live and die where they grew up, unless that is a major city.

  7. Tony W says:

    There is certainly an element of economic “regression toward the mean” at work, but the power structure in this country is constructed in a manner meant to even things out over time. Tiny states like Wyoming and Delaware have equal power in the Senate to California and New York – which means that government money and favor flows, at least to some degree, to those smaller states disproportionately to their contributions to the whole.

    We get cranky about it sometimes, but blue-staters are generally happy to help out our red-state brethren, even if they won’t appreciate it until many years down the road.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    I’ve lived in Florida and Texas, as well as Colorado and California.
    I currently reside in Connecticut.
    Believe me; there isn’t enough money in Donald Trump’s bank account to make me go back to Florida or Texas.
    Texas. What’s low taxation and regulation get you? The highest rate of un-insured, shitty education, lousy air and water. Enjoy!!!
    Florida. Don’t get me started on how much I hate Florida.

  9. DrDaveT says:

    As always, please remember that you can’t do meaningful red/blue trend analysis without taking into account that where we draw the line between “red” and “blue” does not stay fixed. Today, people with Ronald Reagan’s (or Richard Nixon’s) policy preferences would be firmly blue — not even purple. People with George McGovern’s policy preferences would be ultraviolet.

    It might well be that red states are becoming bluer without any significant change in the beliefs of the people who live there. More careful analysis would be required to distinguish the two cases.

  10. Mikey says:

    @grumpy realist: Limbaugh moved to Florida a while ago, to escape New York income taxes.

  11. EddieInCA says:

    I spent most of last year in Austin.

    Let’s be clear. There is nothing in Austin that resembles the anywhere else in Texas. Additionally, San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas are quickly heading in that direction. The best description of Austin currently is “Imagine if someone dropped Berkeley into the middle of Alabama”. That’s not far from the truth. Austin is BLUER than blue.

    Cheap Housing Costs? My one bedroom apartment downtown cost the company almost $4K per month on a one year lease. Two bedrooms are going for $500K just to be torn down and rebuilt and sold for 1.2 million.

    Also, I’ve spent considerable time in Georgia (Atlanta) and Florida (Ft. Lauderdale, Aventura). Those two states will turn solid blue soon. The influx of immigrant labor into rural Georgia and the exploding film business in Atlanta will make that happen much quicker than many realize. And in South Florida, once the Cuban republicans die off, the sheer urban demographics of South Florida/Tampa/Orlando will overwhelm the rest of the state’s rural population. It will resemble California, where the greatest landmass is “red” but all the people live where it’s “blue”. Texas will end up that way eventually.

    Name one state that exploding in population that is actually trending red, other than Arizona.

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @Mikey:
    And because it’s easier to shop for doctors to supply his drug habits

  13. Neil Hudelson says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Texas. What’s low taxation and regulation get you? The highest rate of un-insured, shitty education, lousy air and water. Enjoy!!!

    And those G*ddamned fire ants. I know they have nothing to do with policies, but after you deal with the racism, the crappy education, flooding every time it rains (because who needs to install drainage?), and the corruption, you still have to face the fact that every time you step off the sidewalk you’ll suddenly feel like hot pokers are being rammed through your feet. (And if they don’t get you outside, they’ll climb up your drainpipes and invade your closets.)

    I spent a lifetime one year in Houston.

  14. Neil Hudelson says:

    @EddieInCA:

    North Dakota. And looking at trends, Utah and Idaho could be considered “exploding” soon (assuming population growth follows job growth). But point taken.

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    I live in Oregon but travel to Houston often and have seen it there. Houston is rapidly becoming a blue Island in the middle of a red sea. It has twice elected an openly gay mayor and I can go days without hearing a Texas drawl. I haven’t been to Dallas for years but I understand that something similar is going on there.
    In my own state I live in a county west of Portland. It used to be mainly agricultural and reliable red as opposed to Portland’s reliably blue. Then the high tech companies moved in and built on what used to be farm land. Intel is now the states largest employer and about a third of the companies employees are here. If you have an Intel processor in your device it was designed and first built here. But housing costs rose as did taxes and many of the Intel employees now compute from Portland which has become a bedroom community of the county. But the county remains reliably blue now.

  16. Dave D says:

    As if any of this matters in the long run. The Southwest is drying up. The air conditioner made it possible for people to start populating the south in any reasonable numbers in post war America. The lack of water will bring this migration back north when demands cannot be met.

  17. Franklin says:

    As far as I can tell, most of the red states are currently cheap because they’re kicking the can down the road. Sure, you can get by without regulations for awhile. Until there’s no more drinking water and the air pollution is causing lung cancer left and right, and all the native animals are dead (it’s just too bad they have no rights in our human-based society).

    I’d actually be fine with those states destroying themselves, if all the people who destroyed it had to stay there and it didn’t affect the rest of us. But unfortunately, pollution doesn’t understand state lines.

  18. al-Ameda says:

    Well then, maybe it’s time to stop redistributing tax dollars from blue states like California to many, many red states? Californians get back 80 cents for every tax dollar it sends to D.C.

  19. Rafer Janders says:

    While the coastal cities have several advantages—among which are the coasts themselves—there’s an attractive value to more space, lower housing costs, lower taxes, and less regulation.

    If there was really such an attractive value to that, then (a) more people would live there than in the coastal cities, and (b) living there would cost more, not less, than living in the coastal cities.

    Really, at what point did conservatives cease to understand the basic laws of supply and demand?

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    While the coastal cities have several advantages—among which are the coasts themselves—there’s an attractive value to more space, lower housing costs, lower taxes, and less regulation.

    Sure, per Yoga Berra, no one wants to live in New York and San Francisco because they’re too crowded with people who want to live there….

  21. Ron Beasley says:

    @Dave D: The growth in the desert SW was always unsustainable because of water. The same probably applies to Southern California. In the Phoenix area they are having problems getting enough water to operate their coal fired and nuclear power plants. No electricity no air conditioning. Expect to see a caravan of U hauls heading north in the not too distant future.

  22. al-Ameda says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    The growth in the desert SW was always unsustainable because of water. The same probably applies to Southern California. In the Phoenix area they are having problems getting enough water to operate their coal fired and nuclear power plants. No electricity no air conditioning. Expect to see a caravan of U hauls heading north in the not too distant future.

    I live in Northern CA, about 60 miles north of San Francisco, and I lived in Seattle for 5 years. The last few times I’ve visited Seattle (in Summer) it’s been in the low 90s for my visit. If I move north again, I’m going to try to out run the climate change and head for Vancouver B.C.

  23. grumpy realist says:

    @Franklin: Nor national lines…which is why Japan is so annoyed about Chinese pollution causing acid rain in THEIR forests….

  24. Ron Beasley says:

    @al-Ameda: You will have the company of those who grow pinot noir and pinot gregiao grapes. It’s simply getting too hot here in Oregon. The same thing is happening in France – we will soon be getting our fine wines from Scandinavia.

  25. Rafer Janders says:

    It remained loyally red even in through the Carter and Clinton aberrations, when many Southern states voted for a Southern Democrat.

    Those weren’t really aberrations — it took decades for the South to move from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican. In 1976, Jimmy Carter took every state in the old Confederacy except Virginia, and in 1992 Clinton won Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Georgia. And heck, in 1996, even though Clinton lost those states, he picked up Texas and Virginia.

    Point is, there was a lot of see-sawing back and forth.

  26. Guarneri says:

    The efforts to rationalize are fascinating. As if people and business are moving from Mecca to backwaters.

    Well here in Chicagoland, people and businesses are moving a mere 30 minutes across the border to Indiana. (Or Iowa). No change in climate. No change in topography. No change in water. And so on. Except for the sign that says welcome to Indiana you wouldn’t know……………oh, yeah, and the change in posture towards business. IL is the ultimate Democrat dream, and it’s being left behind a broke and broken shell.

    In the north Midwest expect it to continue. More importantly, the future is in the Southeast.

  27. Rafer Janders says:

    As Joel Kotkin has argued many times, red states are eating blue states’ lunch, stealing away talented young workers and innovative businesses by offering lower costs of living, higher qualities of life, and more favorable tax and regulatory environments than anything coastal blue citadels can offer.

    I take issue with the “higher quality of life” canard, too. It is, at best, a different quality of life. If I moved to Austin or Denver or Dallas etc. I’d have a bigger place to live, a yard, etc. But I’d have to drive everywhere, which would be a significant decrease to my quality of life, and I’d no longer be within a half-hour of travel to Yankee Stadium, Carnegie Hall, Central Park, Wall Street, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Broadway, Lincoln Center, the Guggenheim, the Natural History Museum, Coney Island, Madison Square Garden, Moma, the Chelsea galleries, the Village Vanguard, Harlem, the Whitney, Columbia, NYU, the 92nd Street Y, etc. etc. and all the restaurants, clubs, and talented and interesting people that the city offers. The qualify of life in the coastal cities isn’t determined by personal space — it’s determined by proximity and access.

  28. Rafer Janders says:

    @Guarneri:

    More importantly, the future is in the Southeast.

    If by the future you mean massive flooding and ungodly heat and humidity, then sure.

  29. JKB says:

    The populace is moving because the new environments are business-friendly and low cost to enter. Once newcomers get established they will move to pass laws making those environments as unfriendly to new business and residents as the blue states they escaped from.

    Now, the question is, are these new enterprises as easily maintained and captured as the large capital outlay businesses of yore? Many of the new are quite moveable feasts using information as raw materials rather than physical products. So once the graft gets to large, the business can slip away almost overnight.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    @Guarneri:
    You are actually the perfect fit for either Florida or Texas. Enjoy!!!

  31. anjin-san says:

    higher qualities of life,

    Higher than the bay area? I could spend the rest of the morning listing the reasons that this is a wonderful place to live, and not even have to bring the unparalleled beauty of the region into the discussion.

    The negatives are the traffic and high cost of living. My office is six minutes from my house, so for the most part, I have gotten around that.

    If you have a compelling argument that any place in any red state has a higher quality of life, I am all ears.

  32. Slugger says:

    I have long thought that the red states vs. blue states comparisons miss the underlying reality. American states are rather arbitrary divisions not seperated by historic, cultural, or ethnic differences. Norway speaks a language other than Sweden, and Normandy actually has some cultural differences from Burgundy. The difference between Kansas and Nebraska is a lot less. The big divide in America is urban vs. rural. In many states, in almost all states, there is a big urban center and a more rural downstate. Whether we see the state as blue or red depends on the power balance within that state between the generally blue big city and the generally red rest of the state. San Francisco is blue; Lodi is red, and the state as a whole is the outcome of the tug-of-war between the two.
    The big cities are growing. Thus I predict that Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, etc will trend red in the future. Illinois is home to Chicago, and Minnesota has Minneapolis; these places will be red. If you ask a Georgian about Atlanta, you will immediately see the difference between red and blue.
    The divide in America is between urban and not.

  33. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: While I generally agree with your statement re: “a different quality of life,” I also submit that your comparison fails for one simple reason: there is literally no other city on Earth like New York City. It is an extreme outlier and therefore moving just about anywhere else would be a step down in most ways. (Am I envious? Maybe a little…LOL…NYC is one of my favorite places to visit, no doubt about that.)

    I moved from the Detroit suburbs to the Washington DC suburbs. The major negative differences are the higher cost of housing and the godawful traffic. The major positive differences are pretty much everything else. And that’s not really a ding on the Detroit suburbs, because they are a lot better than most non-natives realize. It’s just that the proximity to DC means a lot of quality-of-life factors are higher where I live now.

  34. rjs says:

    old news…most of those are energy cities in energy states and they’re heading into a recession now, so the migration will reverse

  35. EddieInCA says:

    @Mikey:

    I also submit that your comparison fails for one simple reason: there is literally no other city on Earth like New York City.

    Point taken, but I’d argue that London and Paris are equal to NYC. But that’s only my opinion.

    🙂

  36. Dave D says:

    @Guarneri: How does that explain Wisconsin’s piss poor economic climate since Walker came into office? He loves business and hates unions yet they are shedding jobs.

  37. Mikey says:

    @EddieInCA: Now there’s one of the great debates of our time…LOL…maybe throw Tokyo in there as well.

  38. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @al-Ameda: I’ve been checking the weather and nearly all summer long, Seattle and Portland have had high temperatures as high or higher than where I’d been living in Korea during the past 8 years. The humidity is lower and we don’t have monsoon rains in the PNW yet, but it’s decidedly hotter this summer than it has been traditionally. Trend or blip? Don’t know.

    The big news in Seattle right now is that the city council has discovered that there is no place close enough to Seattle for low-pay service workers to move to and still commute to jobs in the city. Part of the push for a $15/hr wage is to offset living costs in a place where making $9/hour is called “almost enough to pay my rent.”

  39. Mikey says:

    @Slugger: Here’s another interesting take on American cultural divisions:

    This map shows the US really has 11 separate ‘nations’ with entirely different cultures

  40. Rafer Janders says:

    @Mikey:

    While I generally agree with your statement re: “a different quality of life,” I also submit that your comparison fails for one simple reason: there is literally no other city on Earth like New York City. It is an extreme outlier and therefore moving just about anywhere else would be a step down in most ways.

    Well, (a) my comparisons cannot fail, they can only be failed.

    And (b), while it’s true that NYC is an outlier since it’s the best city on Earth, bar none, the general quality of my remark could still be true about Chicago (substitute in Wrigley Field for Yankees Stadium, the Art Institute for the Met, etc.), Boston, San Francisco, LA, Seattle, etc. The key point in all these cities is that quality of life is not defined by having lots of personal space, but by having lots of proximity and ease of access to varied and interesting people, jobs, restaurants, stadiums, parks, concerts, museums, clubs, and other cultural opportunities. The crowding together IS the value.

  41. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: I see. Now I have to go find a mirror to check if your actual point parted my hair as it sailed over my head…lol…

    Anyway, I’m with you on this, the access to interests and opportunities in the populated coastal areas helps create what I value in quality of life. It is nice sometimes to “get away” to a smaller town or into the countryside, but I’m always drawn back to what a densely populated metro has to offer.

  42. Liberal Capitalist says:

    while the near-term political effect of this has been to increase the power of red states, the longer term impact has been to turn them into purple and even blue states.

    … one of us… one of us… one of us… Gooble-gobble, gooble-gobble.

    What? They uncovered our nefarious plan?

    Next they”ll discover Trump is a Democratic plant!

  43. michael reynolds says:

    Not sure the implicit idea that the fittest are escaping California, New York, Illinois, etc, is entirely logical. Clearly if you’re a business escaping California then it’s because you have failed to one degree or another. You couldn’t make it in our very competitive environment. Much the same as people – if you left New York City for Charlotte, NC, it’s not a sign that your career is going great guns, now is it?

    Step back and here’s what you have: ambitious people flow to the big, exciting cities and states – New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago – and when they fail they go back to Texas. The Republican Recession of 2008 shook out a lot of losers. Now those losers are in Texas or whatever other squalid, humid, insect-infested shite-hole, plying their trade in less attractive and less demanding environments.

    Put it this way: is there a human being alive who would, in the absence of economic necessity, choose Dallas over San Francisco? Of course not.

    If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But if you can’t make it here, well, there’s always Texas, right?

  44. humanoid.panda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Much the same as people – if you left New York City for Charlotte, NC, it’s not a sign that your career is going great guns, now is it?

    Depends on what you do, isn’t it? If you are say, a writer, then yes, you probably are not doing well. However, I am pretty sure there are more tech people per capita in Durham and Raleigh than in NYC.

    There is also of course the issue that most people who move from the North to the sun belt don’t usually move from the large cities- more likely, they come from places like Detroit and Bufallo and other rust belt areas..
    Also, the trend of people moving towards the sunbelt didn’t start with the great recession- it is is at least 3 decades old.

  45. Rafer Janders says:

    While the coastal cities have several advantages—among which are the coasts themselves—there’s an attractive value to more space, lower housing costs, lower taxes, and less regulation.

    Getting back to this…it’s math, man. “Lower housing costs” are, by themselves, a key indicator that that place is less, not more, valuable as a destination. The housing costs are low precisely because not as many people want to live there as want to live in the big coastal cities.

  46. humanoid.panda says:

    @humanoid.panda: In a way, one could make the argument that the shift from the rust belt to the sunbelt is the last move of the great American migration: the US started on the East coast, then spread to the Far, Far West, leaving the middle, and some especially humid parts, relatively empty. Now, they are being filled.

  47. Pete S says:

    Quality of life is a subjective measure. Even granting that it is true, how much of the “higher” quality of life is financed by the great discrepancy between how much the red states are paying in federal tax and how many benefits they are getting back? A lot of commenters have brought that up on recent threads.

    For that matter, how much of the lower local and state taxes are financed by this discrepancy?

    And if people keep moving to the red states to take advantage, how long will it be sustainable?

  48. michael reynolds says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Even in tech, if you’re at the top of the food chain you’re working in Cupertino or Mountain View and living in San Francisco.

    No disrespect meant for Research Triangle, I spent a few very pleasant years in Chapel Hill. I liked CH for at least 8 months out of the year.

  49. humanoid.panda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Even in tech, if you’re at the top of the food chain you’re working in Cupertino or Mountain View and living in San Francisco.

    True. However, one of the major problems in America is how to help who are not at the top of food chain lead productive and happy lives. Creating more urban, diverse, cosmopolitan urban centers in places where they didn’t exist before looks like a good move in that direction.

  50. humanoid.panda says:

    In general, I feel like the “red state/blue state” cliche that people here and elsewhere like so much is somewhat a red herring- for the reason that others outlined before: people might be moving to Red States, but they are moving to Blue areas of those states. Raleigh or Madison have more in common with SF than with rural North Carolina or the Milwaukee suburbs- because the people in those areas are pretty much the same as the people of San Francisco. The bigger question we need to ask is basically this: given that much of the sunbelt is a product of large federal projects to move water around, what will happen when water runs out: will the politics of those places change rapidly enough to gather support for the kind of infrastactural changes we willl need to deal with climate change?

  51. michael reynolds says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Yeah, it is becoming a problem in the Bay Area. There’s a mordant line in SF to the effect that the billionaires are now gentrifying the millionaires out of the market. I do not know how you can live here on less than a six figure salary.

    Even on the plantations they understood that you needed slave quarters. Even Downton Abbey has rooms for the help. We need to do something about this, but we’ve crossed the line to where all Marin or SF or peninsula real estate is so valuable, and that value so fiercely defended, it’s hard to find a way to even start.

    There are Help Wanted signs up all over my area, but how you manage to survive in Mill Valley or Larkspur on Starbucks pay is a mystery to me. We have two quasi ghettoes in Marin City and the San Rafael canal area, but both are in environmentally pleasing locations, so I imagine the gentrifiers will be coming for them, soon.

  52. michael reynolds says:

    @humanoid.panda:

    Exactly. If I were moving to Texas it’d be Austin or nothing. If I were moving to Georgia it’d be Athens or Atlanta. If I were looking at Florida. . . Okay, maybe St. Augustine. Maybe.

    A Florida move would save my wife and me easily 100k a year in income taxes, lower rent/mortgage. We lived there at various times in the past, in the panhandle when I was a kid, in Orlando and Sarasota later in life. And for a savings of 100k a year, I still wouldn’t go back.

  53. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    While the coastal cities have several advantages—among which are the coasts themselves—there’s an attractive value to more space, lower housing costs, lower taxes, and less regulation.

    If there was really such an attractive value to that, then (a) more people would live there than in the coastal cities, and (b) living there would cost more, not less, than living in the coastal cities.

    There’s a reason most people who work in DC actually live in either Maryland or Virginia: it’s cheaper and more convenient in many respects to do so. The same is true of people who work in Manhattan but live in Connecticut, etc. Most of us have gravitated to live *near* big cities because that’s where the good jobs are. That’s especially true in the post-agrarian and post-big manufacturing economy. But I wouldn’t want to live in DC proper or Manhattan or Boston or a handful of other great cities unless I were quite wealthy.

  54. TheoNott says:

    @michael reynolds:

    There’s a valid argument to be made that housing prices in the Bay Area (and analagous places like the New York) are driven up artificially by ill-conceived regulations that limit the scope of residential construction. I’ve read that San Francisco is still only one-third as dense as New York, in a freer market, a lot of that historic one-story housing would be knocked down in favor of high-rise apartments. Even conservatives are right about things occasionally.

  55. humanoid.panda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yeah, it is becoming a problem in the Bay Area. There’s a mordant line in SF to the effect that the billionaires are now gentrifying the millionaires out of the market. I do not know how you can live here on less than a six figure salary.

    And this is the why the US “works” and why all the complaints about states subsidizing other states are just talking points: in the end, the US is a big, coherent, well-integrated economic unit. This means that when disaster strikes in a specific locale: say the real estate bubble in Nevada, the rest of the country makes transfer payments to the people who become unemployed. When some areas becomes permanently depressed, people can move to other areas. When some areas become *too* succesful and therefore expensive, other areas pick up the slack. E pluribus unum is a real thing!

  56. humanoid.panda says:

    @TheoNott:

    I’ve read that San Francisco is still only one-third as dense as New York, in a freer market, a lot of that historic one-story housing would be knocked down in favor of high-rise apartments. Even conservatives are right about things occasionally.

    To some extent, this is true- but SF has some unique problems (earthquakes, it’s location in a very narrow valley) that create unique problems for this sort of construction.

  57. humanoid.panda says:

    @michael reynolds:

    A Florida move would save my wife and me easily 100k a year in income taxes, lower rent/mortgage. We lived there at various times in the past, in the panhandle when I was a kid, in Orlando and Sarasota later in life. And for a savings of 100k a year, I still wouldn’t go back.

    Right- but you and your wife are in the top 0.1% of population, where such considerations matter. A million Jewish grandparents can’t waive off the prices of Florida real estate as easily..

  58. michael reynolds says:

    @TheoNott:

    As @humanoid.panda points out, SF isn’t NYC. There’s a reason our most prominent skyscraper is a pyramid and the rest are all way more steel than glass: the ground here doesn’t always sit still. A lot of the city (the Marina District and other areas) is landfill, and landfill + earthquakes ≠ high rises.

    And of course to put it bluntly, rich people don’t like having poor people around unless they’re wearing a McDonald’s uniform. No one in Sea Cliff or Nob Hill or the Marina is going to support Section 8 housing anywhere but Oakland or maybe Daly City. Liberal hypocrisy? Yep.

  59. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “Step back and here’s what you have: ambitious people flow to the big, exciting cities and states – New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago – and when they fail they go back to Texas.”

    That’s my story. 30 years in LA, then a three year breather down here in the desert… and moving to Manhattan in a month. I feel ten years younger already.

  60. michael reynolds says:

    @wr:
    Manhattan, baby. Got a gig there?

  61. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: I love, love, love Tokyo. It’s not all that much fun for a tourist, but if you’re living there, you can find a museum or shop devoted to whatever you are interested in, no matter what it is.

  62. grumpy realist says:

    @humanoid.panda: Heck, the movement to the South started as soon as air conditioning was invented.

    Me, I stay up north. I love the white stuff and seeing steam rise off the Chicago River in waves at sub-zero weather.

    Have discovered my major rule of thumb as to whether a place is great to live in or not depends on a) how good is the opera? b) how good are the restaurants? c) can I get some good sushi? d) how good are the antique bookstores? e) how awful are the mosquitoes in the summer?

  63. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @michael reynolds: it depends on how you define ambition and success. It is easy for me to be a community college faculty member in Aggieland because I have a salary above the median for my area. It would be much more difficult to do so in SF or Boston or NYC unless I was married to someone making a sizeable income.

    When I lived in both Austin and Boston, I had to live so far outside of the city center that I rarely took advantage of everything the city offered because I had to live so far outside of the city center in order to afford my rent. By the time I got home after my 45 to 60 minute commute, the last thing I was going to do was turn around and go back out.

    Where I live now, I have all of the amenities that come from living near a Tier I Research University. I teach at a great school with students I love. My 1000 sq ft 2bed 2 bath house cost $103,000. My monthly mortgage, including property taxes and insurance, is $863. I ha v e a five minute commute and everything I need is within a 15 minute drive.

    If the only people who can afford to teach and nurse and man government agencies and firefight and maintain order and run social services are people who are secondary wage earners and/or people who have an hour+ commute, that doesn’t seem really sustainable to me in the long run.

  64. humanoid.panda says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: +10,000. Unlike Michael, WR and the rest of the big city crowd here, I can’t imagine a more pleasant experience that living in a college town, when all things are considered.

  65. al-Ameda says:

    @grumpy realist:

    @Mikey: I love, love, love Tokyo. It’s not all that much fun for a tourist, but if you’re living there, you can find a museum or shop devoted to whatever you are interested in, no matter what it is.

    Also, Yokohama has a Cup Noodles Museum.

    I lived in Tokyo for 2+ years and the only thing that was tough for me were the DC-like summers – hot and steamy. Other than that I really liked Tokyo — the transportation, the narrow streets and quiet neighborhoods, endless numbers of small businesses and themed-cafes, and so forth.

  66. EddieinCA says:

    @Mikey: I swear. I had Tokyo on the list and deleted it.

  67. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    But I wouldn’t want to live in DC proper or Manhattan or Boston or a handful of other great cities unless I were quite wealthy.

    You’re very much an anomaly, since 8.5 million people live in New York City — and most of them are not quite wealthy. In fact, the median household income in the city is circa $50,000/yr.

  68. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    There’s a reason most people who work in DC actually live in either Maryland or Virginia: it’s cheaper and more convenient in many respects to do so. The same is true of people who work in Manhattan but live in Connecticut, etc.

    No, the same is not true — in NY, the wealthy like to live in Manhattan proper, in areas such as Park and Fifth Avenues, Tribeca, the Village, etc. The people who live in CT but commute to Manhattan are largely those who can’t afford, for whatever reason, to live in Manhattan.

  69. Monala says:

    @Rafer Janders: Very true. I lived in Boston proper for about 20 years. I am not wealthy. My sister has lived in Manhattan for 20+ years, in a rent-stabilized apartment. She is not wealthy, either.

  70. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    It’s a mix. Some people like to live in Manhattan, others prefer not to – and the reasons for that are quite varied.

    We live in Westchester because we don’t want to live in Manhattan. We could afford to, and indeed did own a townhouse in the west 80s for a while, but we found that we prefer the large yards, quiet environment and good schools that we have here. We’re close enough to the city that we can easily avail ourselves of the amenities without having to deal with the negatives (far too many people crammed in far too small a space for my liking). There are doubtless people who prefer to live in Manhattan who would be bored senseless in Westchester.

    Neither is really superior to the other. They just fill different needs / wants for different people.

  71. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: Yeah, teaching in a brilliant young MFA program… and working for the man who wrote My Favorite Year and co-wrote Blazing Saddles.

    I swear, between this and the China gigs, my life has gone 180 degrees over the last year. Pretty exciting times for a middle-aged coot!

  72. wr says:

    @HarvardLaw92: “Neither is really superior to the other. They just fill different needs / wants for different people.”

    Or even the same people at different times in their lives. I did the west coast version of Westchester in Pasadena for 20 years — big ass 100 year old house with an acre of hill behind it, leafy streets, quiet environment, and loved it for most of that time. Now I want to try the thing I’ve never lived — the real, big city life. I doubt this is the last change I’ll ever make…

  73. DrDaveT says:

    @wr:

    and working for the man who wrote My Favorite Year

    When a Buick looked like a Buick.

    Awesome film.

  74. anjin-san says:

    @wr:

    moving to Manhattan in a month

    Very cool. What part of town?

  75. wr says:

    @anjin-san: Good question. We spent a few days walking neighborhoods — we’d originally planned this trip because we were seeing U2 at MSG, and then the final job interview was scheduled for the same week. My wife has a friend who lives on the upper east side, but it just seems too rich and disconnected for my taste. I fell in love with the West Village, my wife is pushing for Murray Hill, which is pretty nice. I think we’re going to have to hire a realtor, fly back for a couple of days, and make offers on the first thing we like. Because this job starts September 1…

    One thing I do know… we’ve got a lot of stuff to get rid of before we can squeeze our lives into a Manhattan apartment!

  76. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    Less populated areas have lower housing costs and lower cost of living – I note that in my state in Brazil, São Paulo. São Paulo is a huge state(Both in population and in area). There is the largest city in the Southern Hemisphere, but most of the state has population density that´s comparable to the rural areas of a US state like Alabama or Missouri(The orange juice that goes to the United States is produced in the same state of the city of São Paulo).

    It´s the same state and the same country, so, taxes and things like that are basically the same. But I see the same flow of people and businesses moving from the very expensive city of São Paulo to the countryside, where´s costs are cheaper.

    Alabama is a much cheaper state than New York, and that has nothing to do with tax policy.

  77. grumpy realist says:

    @wr: I did the “bounce around the world” thing and now have by happenstance ended up in Chicago, which I now think is a pretty cool town. (I was at UIUC for grad work and hated hated hated Chicago at that point.) Grew up in a location where we had the deer stomping through the backyard, so now am doing the urban thing.

    Still would prefer Paris or Tokyo….London is too far north and gets too much rain for my taste, although from a baroque music point of view it is SUBLIME.

    I also have moved from the “renting white apartment + minimalism (aside from the books)” habit to the “got my own place paint it all sorts of crazy colors!”

    (You have no idea how much I now detest white/beige walls. We have people in our condo who wave their hands frantically “ooh we’re only going to be here for seven years so we need to keep the walls and the carpet the way it is!” to which I answer: paint doesn’t cost that much and that’s the most insipid shade of mushroom beige I’ve ever seen.)