People move for a variety of reasons, including a new job, a new school, retirement and to be closer to family. But do politics factor into the equation?
A recent study by Redfin suggests: yes.
Nationally, blue counties — democratically leaning —experienced a 7.4% net loss of people in the first half of 2017. Red counties — those where a majority of people vote Republican — experienced a 1.0% net growth of individuals in the first half of 2017.
The biggest winners were purple counties, or places where democrats and republicans are pretty evenly split. At the national level, the population of purple counties grew by 3.9% in the first part of 2017.
The big question revealed by this data is whether the politics of these places is the cause for people moving, or whether politics merely correlate with moving patterns.
Turns out, it’s a little bit of both.
It comes down to taxes and land
Blue areas of the country almost always have higher costs of living than red places, which can force out mid- and low-income earners. That’s due to two of the most basic differences in political philosophy that separate the parties:
- Democrats believe the government needs to provide citizens with quality public services, which need to be covered by taxpayers, while Republicans say the government should provide only the bare minimum of services and be less reliant on taxpayer money; and
- Democrats believe more government control and regulation create a safer and more balanced society, while Republicans say regulations hold back economic growth.
These basic differences cause taxes to be higher and land to be more closely regulated in blue states (like California) and counties, and contribute to higher costs of living.
Another contributing factor is that most urban areas — which are already expensive due to the high cost of land — vote Democrat. On the other hand, rural areas where land is plentiful and cheaper tend to vote Republican.
For an extreme example, look at San Francisco, the progressive stronghold of the U.S., if not the world. Here, 85% of voters cast their ballot for the Democratic candidate in 2016. Also, the cost of living is absurdly high and the people who work here are increasingly being forced to leave for the suburbs where housing costs are more within reach.
When searching for a nearby red county to compare to San Francisco, one has to go all the way to the Sierra Nevadas. Here growth is occurring — but since the population and the number of jobs and services in this area are extremely low compared to urban coastal areas, it’s almost impossible to compare. Keeping these vast differences in mind, one thing is undoubtedly true — it’s less expensive to live here than in any of California’s coastal communities.
The solution for the high cost of living is not to turn all of California red — an implausible effort, to be sure. A diversity of opinions, politics and lifestyle are part of what make California an attractive place to live. But blue areas of the state can take a leaf out of Republicans’ game plan by loosening government restrictions around growth.
Urban areas need to loosen zoning restrictions in desirable areas, allowing more density and reducing parking requirements in areas near public transit, making it possible for builders to start more residential construction projects. Some of this is already underway, as California legislators respond to the worsening housing shortage. Read more about these efforts here.