Differences in house price and income growth rates between 1950 and 2000 across metropolitan areas have led to an ever-widening gap in housing values and incomes between the typical and highest-priced locations. We show that the growing spatial skewness in house prices and incomes are related and can be explained, at least in part, by inelastic supply of land in some attractive locations combined with an increasing number of high-income households nationally. Scarce land leads to a bidding-up of land prices and a sorting of high-income families relatively more into those desirable, unique, low housing construction markets, which we label “superstar cities.” Continued growth in the number of high-income families in the U.S. provides support for ever-larger differences in house prices across inelastically supplied locations and income-based spatial sorting. Our empirical work confirms a number of equilibrium relationships implied by the superstar cities framework and shows that it occurs both at the metropolitan area level and at the sub-MSA level, controlling for MSA characteristics.
Tag Archives | Cities and residents
This paper considers the implications of increasing land supply constraints in the United States on urban demand. First, because shifts in demand are now capitalized more into the price of land, house prices in some metropolitan areas have grown increasingly unaffordable to typical households. This might have an effect on the fundamental character of such cities. Second, the effect of home owners’ financial interests as landowners on their decisions about what regulations or investments in their communities to support may become stronger. Third, researchers may now be able to better use land prices to make inferences about urban demand. However, interpreting real estate prices still is tricky.
Urban success increasingly has taken two different forms in the post-war era. One involves very high house price growth with relatively little population growth. The other pairs strong population expansion with mild house price appreciation. We document the heterogeneity across MSAs in the long-run house price growth rate and show that house price growth and housing unit growth tend to be inversely related. Income growth, too, varies widely across MSAs and high house price growth markets experience both high income growth and a right-shift of their entire income distribution. We then discuss four possible explanations for these relationships. One is differences the growth of urban amenities; another is changes in urban productivity; a third is differential growth in agglomeration economies; the last explanation relies on growth in the population of rich households at the national level. These households differentially sort by income into supply-constrained metropolitan areas, with the rich having to outbid other potential residents for the scarce slots available in supply-constrained metropolitan areas. The evidence suggests that this latter explanation is responsible for a significant portion of the urban outcomes we see, but it also is clear that much more work is needed to pin down the relative contributions of these basic factors.
Dispersion in House Price and Income Growth across Markets: Facts and Theories with Joseph Gyourko and Christopher Mayer, Agglomeration Economics Edward Glaeser, ed, University of Chicago Press (2009) (PDF)
Spatial Variation in the Risk of Home Owning in Edward Glaeser and John Quigley(eds.),, Housing Markets and the Economy, Risk Regulation, and Policy Lincoln Institute of Land Policy(2009), pp 83-112 (PDF)
We study the tendency to connect to the Internet, and the online and offline shopping behavior of connected persons, to draw inferences about whether the Internet is a substitute or a complement for cities. We document that larger markets have more locally-targeted online content and that individuals are more likely to connect in markets with more local online content, suggesting the Internet is a complement to cities. Yet, holding local online content constant, people are less likely to connect in larger markets, indicating that the Internet is also a substitute for cities. We also find that individuals connect to overcome local isolation: notwithstanding a large digital divide, blacks are more likely to connect, relative to whites, when they comprise a smaller fraction of local population, making the Internet a substitute for agglomeration of preference minorities within cities. Finally, using online and offline spending data, we find that connected persons spend more on books and clothing online, relative to their offline spending, if they are farther from offline stores. This indicates that the Internet functions as a substitute for proximity to retail outlets.
Geography and the Internet: Is the Internet a Substitute or Complement for Cities? with Joel Waldfogel, Journal of Urban Economics vol. 56, number 1 (July 2004), pp. 1-24 (PDF)
Even though the top marginal income tax rate has fallen substantially and the tax code has become less progressive since 1979, the tax benefit to homeowners was virtually unchanged between 1979-1989, and then rose substantially between 1989-1999. Using tract-level data from the 1980, 1990, and 2000 censuses, we estimate how the income tax-related benefits to owner-occupiers are distributed spatially across the United States. Geographically, gross program benefits have been and remain very spatially targeted. At the metropolitan area level, tax benefits are spatially targeted, with a spatial skewness that is increasing over time. In 1979, owners in the top 20 highest subsidy areas received from 2.7 to 8.0 times the subsidy reaped by owners in the bottom 20 areas. By 1999, owners in the top 20 areas received from 3.4 to 17.1 times more benefits than owners in any of the 20 lowest recipient areas. Despite the increasing skewness, the top subsidy recipient areas tend to persist over time. In particular, the very high benefit per owner areas are heavily concentrated in California and the New York City to Boston corridor, with California owners alone receiving between 19 and 22 percent of the national aggregate gross benefits. While tax rates are somewhat higher in these places, it is high and rising house prices which appear most responsible for the large and increasing skewness in the spatial distribution of benefits.
The (Un)Changing Geographical Distribution of Housing Tax Benefits: 1980 to 2000 with Joseph Gyourko, Tax Policy and the Economy Volume 18, James Poterba, ed. (2004, Cambridge: MIT Press), pp. 175-208 [Revised version of NBER w10322, February 2004] (PDF)
We estimate how tax subsidies to owner-occupied housing are distributed spatially across the United States and find striking skewness. At the state level, the mean tax benefit per owned unit in 1990 ranged from $917 in South Dakota to $10,718 in Hawaii. The dispersion is slightly greater when benefit flows are measured at the metropolitan-area level. Even assuming the subsidies are funded in an income progressivity-neutral manner, a relatively few metro areas, primarily in California and the New York–Boston corridor, are shown to gain considerably while the vast majority of areas have relatively small gains or losses.
The Spatial Distribution of Housing-Related Tax Benefits in the United States. with Joseph Gyourko, Brookings Institution Discussion_paper, July 2001. (PDF)
Comment on Tax Incentives and the City , Brookings-Wharton Journal on Urban Affairs (2002), pp. 124-130.
Chapter 5: The Spatial Distribution of Mortgage Interest Deduction Benefits Across and Within Metropolitan Areas in the United States with Joseph Gyourko, in Richard Green and Andrew Reschovsky, eds, Using Tax Policy to Increase Homeownership Among Low- and Moderate-Income Households: Final Report to the Ford Foundation, November 2001, pp. 137-186.
Using 1990 Census tract-level data, we estimate how tax subsidies to owner-occupied housing are distributed spatially across the United States, calculating their value as the difference in taxes currently paid by home owners and the taxes owners would pay if there were no preference for investing in one’s home relative to other assets. The $164 billion national tax subsidy is highly skewed spatially with a few areas receiving large subsidies and most areas receiving small ones. If the program were self-financed on a lump sum basis, less than 20 percent of states and 10 percent of metropolitan areas would have net positive subsidies. These few metropolitan areas are situated almost exclusively along the California coast and in the Northeast from Washington, DC to Boston. At the state level, California stands out because it receives 25 percent of the national aggregate subsidy flow while being home to only 10 percent of the country’s owners. At the metropolitan area level, owners in just three large CMSAs receive over 75 percent of all positive net benefits. And within a number of the larger metropolitan areas, the top quarter of owners receives 70 percent or more of the total subsidy flowing to the metro area.
The Spatial Distribution of Housing-Related Tax Benefits in the United States. with Joseph Gyourko, Brookings Institution Discussion_paper, July 2001.