States with highest, lowest levels of homeownership

24/7 Wall St. ranked the states by homeownership. Here are the top and bottom of the list:

50. New York: 53.7%

49. California: 54.8%

48. Nevada: 56.8%

47. Hawaii: 58.3%

46. Texas: 61.7%

5. Iowa: 71.3%

4. New Hampshire: 71.3%

3. Minnesota: 71.5%

2. Vermont: 72.2%

1. West Virginia: 72.5%

The two states with the lowest levels of homeownership are not surprising given their housing prices and large urban areas though I would guess many people would not pick Nevada and Texas to be there. On the other end, the five states with the highest homeownership rates tend to be less dense and more affordable. If, as the article before the rankings suggest, homeownership is indeed a marker of the American Dream, does that mean the people in these five states with the most homeownership are more likely to be living the American Dream? I’m guessing there would be some debate about that.

 

Argument: solve Interstate issues by handing them back to the states

One writer suggests it is time for the federal government to get out of the business of funding interstate highways:

Assuming time travel is off the table, let’s learn from our mistakes. First, let’s get the federal government completely out of the business of maintaining the interstate highways crisscrossing our big metropolitan areas. Hand these roads over to state governments as soon as possible, and free state governments to finance these roads in any way they see fit, from higher state gas taxes to variable tolls they could use to reduce traffic congestion. Second, for interstate highways that connect cities across deserts and cornfields, let’s replace the federal gasoline tax with per-mile tolls. One of the many problems with the gas tax is that as gas mileage improves, and as a small but growing number of drivers turn to electric vehicles, gas tax revenue is not keeping up with the needs of the highway system. Per-mile tolls can solve that problem by charging drivers according to how much they actually use the highway system, regardless of the kind of vehicle they’re driving. And as Robert W. Poole Jr. explains, they can be pegged to the cost of each road and bridge, which will help ensure that roads and bridges are adequately financed.

After adopting this approach, we will see states investing in the infrastructure projects that best meet their needs, with some states, like California and New York, choosing to invest more heavily in urban mass transit while others, like Texas and Utah, build bigger and better highways. What remains of the federal highway system, meanwhile, will evolve over time, as the routes that attract the most traffic will grow in line with their per-mile toll revenue while those that attract the least will stay the same size, or perhaps even shrink. We’ll have an infrastructure worthy of a bigger, denser, more decentralized America—the kind of infrastructure that Ike, in his infinite wisdom, would be proud of.

An interesting argument that might have appeal for both liberals and conservatives. For conservatives, having more local control is generally good and states could innovate in a way that a larger bureaucracy might not. (At the same time, corporate interests cross state and national lines and they might not like a decentralized highway network.) For liberals, highways have often been used in redevelopment projects harming poorer neighborhoods and state control would theoretically give neighborhoods and communities more say over the fate of highways. Additionally, interstates encourage sprawl and liberals might want to reign in highway building and maintenance in many places.

I could also imagine several objections to this argument:

1. How many states would be willing to take this on right now given budget issues? This would have to be phased in over time. Which government officials want to take responsibility for raising tolls for driving?

2. Uniformity in the system could be a good thing ranging from common road signs to expectations regarding levels of maintenance and service across states.

Splitting America into equally proportioned states by population; options abound

Here is an interesting yet probably quite absurd set of maps that split the United States into various configurations of states with equal populations. Two of the maps:

140926_CBOX_Map4-EqualPopulation

140926_CBOX_MapCircles

I can see the logic behind this – more equal representation. However, the others are implausible. If anything, more equal populations might be accomplished by breaking states into smaller units that might be more equal in population to each other as pieces of the larger state. But, trying to imagine merging into megastates or different configurations of the 50 states is hard to imagine.

Statistics from the first “Community Association Fact Book”

Many Americans live in community associations and a new book discusses the broad patterns:

A new body of research, the “Community Association Fact Book,” tallies the numbers of associations, housing units, residents and property values for the country and each state. It was published by the Community Association Research Foundation, the research arm of the trade group Community Associations Institute in Falls Church, Va…

According to the study, 24 percent of American homes are in an association. Nationally, the number of associations increased to 328,500 in 2013 from 10,000 in 1970, the first year the foundation began keeping track. During that time, the number of housing units grew to 26.3 million from 701,000, as did the number of unit inhabitants to 65.7 million from 2.1 million. They pay about $65 billion annually assessments.

As for state data, Illinois has 17,900 associations, the fourth-highest after Florida, California and Texas.

The states with the fewest associations, less than 1,000 each, are Alaska, Arkansas, Mississippi, North and South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.

That’s roughly 20% of Americans living within an association that provides oversight. Of course, these associations are often intended to protect homeowners from their neighbors within the community and outside of it. At the same time, it can lead to new sorts of issues in how to govern these associations, such as collecting and spending money in an association and operating as a board. The Chicago Tribune carries a weekly column featuring questions about associations and it often seems fairly complicated with neighbors disagreeing in a formalized setting.

There has to be an interesting story behind the disparities in the number of associations between states. It may have to do with laws in particular states that make it easier or harder to form an association. But, it all may be influenced by other factors like an urban/rural split (the states with the least number of associations are more rural) and cultural patterns (what do people think about neighborhoods, how important is protecting property values, etc.).

“Bewitching” look at state migration patterns is good when used interactively but not all together

The Atlantic Cities has a cool graphic about migration between states but there is one problem – it is hard to read unless you use the interactive element.

Here is an explanation of how to read the chart:
The graphic may look like spaghetti pie at first glance, but it really is beautifully simple once you learn how to navigate it. Here’s Walker explaining about that:

The visualization is a circle cut up into arcs, the light-colored pieces along the edge of the circle, each one representing a state. The arcs are connected to each other by links, and each link represents the flow of people between two states. States with longer arcs exchange people with more states (California and New York, for example, have larger arcs). Links are thicker when there are relatively more people moving between two states. The color of each link is determined by the state that contributes the most migrants, so for example, the link between California and Texas is blue rather than orange, because California sent over 62,000 people to Texas, while Texas only sent about 43,000 people to California. Note that, to keep the graphic clean, I only drew a link between two states if they exchanged at least 10,000 people.

Without the interactive element, you can’t quite figure out what is going on. All you can rely on is the relative width and length of the arcs as there are no numbers for the migration (and that would get cluttered really quickly). For example, you can quickly see that it seems like California sends Texas a lot of people. Or that quite a few New Yorkers go to California or Florida. The middle is kind of a jumbled mess and can be hard to follow thinner strands.

This seems to be a fun graphic element when it takes advantage of the capabilities of the Internet – you can click on your state, cut out all the clutter, and see the numbers. Otherwise, I’m not sure it adds much and still requires a good amount of text to sort things out.

Texas is America’s future?

A libertarian economist argues Texas is a bright spot for America’s future:

Since 2000, 1 million more people have moved to Texas from other states than have left.

As an economist and a libertarian, I have become convinced that whether they know it or not, these migrants are being pushed (and pulled) by the major economic forces that are reshaping the American economy as a whole: the hollowing out of the middle class, the increased costs of living in the U.S.’s established population centers and the resulting search by many Americans for a radically cheaper way to live and do business.

To a lot of Americans, Texas feels like the future. And I would argue that more than any other state, Texas looks like the future as well — offering us a glimpse of what’s to come for the country at large in the decades ahead. America is experiencing ever greater economic inequality and the thinning of its middle class; Texas is already one of our most unequal states. America’s safety net is fraying under the weight of ballooning Social Security and Medicare costs; Texas’ safety net was built frayed. Americans are seeking out a cheaper cost of living and a less regulated climate in which to do business; Texas has that in spades. And did we mention there’s no state income tax?

There’s a bumper sticker sometimes seen around the state that proclaims, I WASN’T BORN IN TEXAS, BUT I GOT HERE AS FAST AS I COULD. As the U.S. heads toward Texas, literally and metaphorically, it’s worth understanding why we’re headed there — both to see the pitfalls ahead and to catch a glimpse of the opportunities that await us if we make the journey in an intelligent fashion.

Joel Kotkin would likely agree. A few thoughts after reading the full story:

1. There are several examples of people moving to Texas from California or the Northeast and finding that they really like Texas. But, the examples tend to emphasize Austin, a city known for plenty of cultural amenities. With its culture, UT-Austin campus, and tech companies, Austin looks like a cool place for the creative class. What about the other major areas in Texas? Why not stories about moving to Houston and Dallas, bigger cities and metropolitan areas with their own industries (oil, etc.)? How representative of Texas is Austin?

2. There is little discussion in the story about Latino residents. The primary focus in on Americans who have moved to Texas from other states but what about the influx of immigrants from Mexico? How are they doing? Are there some differences in their experiences as a whole versus those who are held up as successes in the article?

3. This is another article in a long line of opinions about which American state best represents the country or provides a glimpse into the future. What about California, a more progressive melting pot? What about the Washington D.C. metropolitan area, home to a number of the wealthiest counties in the United States? How about Illinois, held up in a more negative light in recent years for pension woes, too many governments/taxing bodies, bullish politicians, foreclosures, and violent crime? Perhaps we should look to Florida, specifically at the diversity in the Miami area or the aging population throughout the state? I realize people are interested in spotting trends but it is hard to select ideal types from 50 states and hundreds of big cities.

4. The story plays out Texas’ connections to the American pioneer and frontier story. This works but there is also a different culture and set of social norms in Texas. Even if business is thriving and people are moving in, does this necessarily mean many Americans would want to act or live like Texans? Is it all simply about a decent job and affordable housing? Yes, everyone may be American but outsiders and Texans themselves will tell you that the state is a land onto itself.

Argument for a flat tax for both electric and gas drivers

There is ongoing discussion in several states about a flat tax for electric and gas cars per mile driven:

“EV drivers want to pay their fair share,” says Jay Friedland, the legislative director of Plug-In America. “We want the roads to be supported, but we’re still in a phase of early adoption and there’s a greater public good.”

That “greater good” is to give electric vehicle technology a chance to crack through its niche status, reducing the continued reliance on fossil fuels from unstable nations. The more state and federal breaks EVs get, the greater the possibility that drivers will look to them as an alternative. But they still need to contribute to the greater good of roads and infrastructure, and Plug-In America agrees.

The advocacy group believes a flat road tax is a better solution – taxing all drivers equally, no matter how their vehicle is powered. That idea is gaining momentum.

In New Jersey, a road tax proposed by Sen. James Whelan, a Democrat from Atlantic City, would charge all drivers 0.00839 cents per mile driven. For the average driver who travels 12,000 miles per year, that comes to a little more than $100. It’s an easy way for Jersey to recoup some cash from EV drivers without targeting them directly.

It’s the same idea with Virginia’s HB 2313, which eliminates the $0.175/gallon tax on fuels in favor of a tax of 3.5 percent for gasoline and six percent for diesel fuel, while imposing larger annual registration fees and a $64 per year for EVs, hybrids and alt-fuel vehicles.

There seem to be several competing interests in these discussions:

1. States who desperately need money to pay for roads.

2. Advocates of electric vehicles who don’t want new taxes and fees to limit the adoption of electric vehicles.

3. Where are the gasoline drivers and the trucking industries? There has not been much reporting on their status in these ongoing discussions…

Another factor that makes these conversations more difficult is the potential changing nature of driving in the coming years. States need certain levels of funding for roads but it is unclear how many people will be driving what and what the status of miles driven per capita will be down the road. All of this means it is harder to make projections and also suggests that whatever is decided in the near future will probably have to be revisited soon.