Monday, July 28, 2008

Why Does High Standard of Living = Bigger House

Mr. Glaeser annoys me again.
If you think about the lifestyle of ordinary Americans living on the fringe of Houston or Dallas, for example, compared to what their lifestyle would be in an older European city -- living in a walk-up apartment there compared to a 2,500-square-foot house here they bought for $130,000 with a 24-minute commute -- it's extraordinary in the low-cost areas of this country what a $60,000 family income gets you.
Obviously I would take the walk-up in downtown or a European suburb anytime. I feel like analysts and newspaper writers don't get it. They don't understand that big house does not equal better lifestyle for everyone. Sure there is a segment of the market that wants that. But again, there is a reason why its more expensive to live in San Francisco than other places, it provides a certain type of lifestyle you can't get in the outskirts of Dallas. How many people in Plano can walk down the street to their grocery store or the local park where a movie plays with hundreds of people watching every Wednesday?

9 comments:

Dave Reid said...

Yea this entire belief system around a bigger house equals a better life is in error. Me and my girlfriend live in a small studio apartment and couldn't be happy. I haven't driven my car in months and, we walk to the grocery store, multiple bars, weekly festivals, the beach and on and on... So many things you can't do with that mcmansion without driving from here to there.

Basically we value our time over our things.

arcady said...

And don't forget that this is just the upfront cost of the house. It costs plenty more to maintain it, to keep the lights on and the lawn watered and the climate controlled. And then there's the costs of the location, which often requires getting one or two extra cars, which all makes for significant ongoing costs to keep the house. And unlike the mortgage, these never go away.

rg said...

Also, big house + big yard = big work. I already spend too much time cleaning and maintaining my small central city rowhouse and its garden. I can't imagine how much time and effort is spent cleaning and maintaining a 2,500 sf house that sits on an acre of land. After a 40-hour workweek with a daily 50-mile round trip commute, it must be hell to spend all weekend working on the house.

inkyfingers said...

There is a real social aspect of urban living that many Americans in the last half century have literally moved away from. Trying to convince them that it is OK to live in a city is going to take time.

I mean, look at television. How many popular sit coms take place in an urban environment in a walk-up? How many depict urban lifestyles? It's a quick-and-dirty metric, but I think it holds water. The TV is a major cultural force in this country, and what it perports as normal people will eat with a spoon.

Anonymous said...

Why spend money on a stationary bicycle or a treadmill when you could walk to a store or bar? You can in a walkable city, but not in the suburbs where zoning prevents multi-use buildings near residents. You could walk to your transit stop, which you can see from your bedroom, but can't as it is too far to walk to because of the cul-de-sacs where the large homes are.

M1EK said...

inky, actually, TV's fairly friendly to urban living - for singles and childless couples at least. Think about Friends, Seinfeld, "How I Met Your Mother", etc.

Many of the family shows are at least in transit-friendly suburbs (Everybody Loves Raymond, for instance).

TV's actually less suburban than reality, IMO.

Morgan Wick said...

Glaeser may be behind the times even within his own profession: http://www.latimes.com/business/printedition/la-fi-covermak27-2008jul27,0,6698655.story

jp said...

Many of the family shows are at least in transit-friendly suburbs (Everybody Loves Raymond, for instance).


This is exactly the perception problem that people have of city life. That kids need all this space to play. Of course in any typical suburban area most weekends kids are inside playing Wii.

Anonymous said...

on the topic of tv's portrayal of urban vs suburban living I would also point out that many shows cast suburbia as a less than ideal setting such as "desperate housewives" or "weeds"