Unsurprising News!

Related Post Roulette

66 Responses

  1. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Unsurprisingly, Matthew Yglesias has an opinion that diverges from Saul DeGraw’s!

    (I actually live here, and I’m not sure I agree about the Twin Cities being a good place for getting ahead in the world that’s also affordable. Yes, it’s affordable. And it might be a good place for getting ahead in the Midwest. But I’m not really sure about even that from personal experience. I felt closer to getting ahead in Chicago, even if my money wash’t going as far. But then I’m just me, not “people.”

    I suppose “But your money wasn’t going as far” is exactly the qualification Yglesias is making about the Twin Cities and opportunity *and affordability*. But maybe the issue is that it’s a bit of a weird qualification to make: generally people who want to really get ahead are aware that they’ll need to, and are willing to, expend resources at an earlier time in order to achieve greater success later. If you’re a big-shot elite law school grad with offers from white-shoe East Coast firms, are you making the choice to get ahead at all if you eschew going to the places where you really do get ahead in the legal profession (or insert credentials for theater, publishing media, finance, whatever) and instead choose to move to Minneapolis to pursue a successful career and life in which your cost of living is lower? Who are you getting ahead of? Obviously, you’re probably getting ahead of the people who clean the bathrooms at Dorsey & Whitney… and congrats! But is that what we were talking about?

    It’s impossible to say. Getting ahead is going to be whatever any individual feels it is, for them. So, for some people it will be possible to move to a low-cost city and get ahead, and for others it won’t be.)Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Drew says:


      Minneapolis has a really good theatre scene and I mean this beyond the Guthrie. That being said the issue with a lot of regional theatre scenes is that they are very cliquish. Once you get into a group or circle, you will have a lot of work but getting into said circles can be just as hard or harder as making it in New York. New York has such an extreme amount of theatre that there is always an audition for something out there or a theatre taking open submissions for new plays. Directors and designers can have different way of getting work.

      You are right about no one really agreeing about what it means to get ahead. A guy in my apartment building moved to SF from Portland. I asked him why and his response was that he was working “New York hours for Portland pay”. I imagine someone at the Minneapolis regional office of a law firm might have slightly fewer billable hours than the person in New York but also probably not and they are making less money almost certainly than the person in NY or SF.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Like will always says, your choices are aesthetic.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Your meaning me specifically or your being more universal? I am quite open about the aesthetic nature of my choices.Report

      • He means universally.

        This implies there’s no such thing as getting ahead, though.Report

      • I imagine someone at the Minneapolis regional office of a law firm might have slightly fewer billable hours than the person in New York but also probably not and they are making less money almost certainly than the person in NY or SF.

        Are they making sufficiently less to off-set the cost of living? Should we assume a 1:1 relationship? Why should we?

        (San Francisco is actually doing well enough to compensate to some degree for the higher cost of living. Which is really, really impressive given how high cost of living is, but even then there are a boatload of cities ahead of it when it comes to adjusted cost-of-living.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Honestly, anytime someone who isn’t poor or working class tells me he or she can’t afford housing in a city, I know exactly what he or she means, and it is not at all that he or she can’t afford housing in a city.Report

  2. Avatar j r says:

    Yes, it is unsurprising that the laws of supply and demand still work.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to j r says:

      That’s kind of what I’m saying above. But different factors go into determining the demand to live someplace, not just “Can you get ahead there?”. There’s an implicit question in Yglesias argument about to what extent it’s really mainly the weather that’s keeping demand to live in Minneapolis down, versus to what extent people really feel like they’re getting ahead there. All it takes is something to depress demand; it’s therefore possible that there are affordable places where you can get ahead (they just might be cold, or smelly, or impossibly spread out, or etc.). As I say, I’m skeptical that Minneapolis is one of them. But it is true that demand is not unifactoral, which leaves room for there to potentially be affordable places where you can get ahead, depending on the definition of “get ahead.”

      If the complaint was, “WTH, there’s no place where everyone wants to live cuz it’s awesome and you can get ahead there that’s also affordable!”, then yeah, that would be a mere indication that supply and demand remain operational.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Michael Drew says:


        Matt Y hits on the reason I haven’t moved to Minneapolis in his first sentence 🙂Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I live in Minneapolis and love it, but then I’m from Canada originally so YMMV.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Michael Drew says:

        North, to a Canadian or a Russian; Minneapolis is positively the tropics.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:


        There is every reason to love it here, precisely because of the cost/earning point he makes. I don’t challenge that at all. If he were just saying, “If you want to live in a very pleasant place where whatever salary you make will feel like more than it would in a lot of other MMAs, and you have a pretty good chance to make a pretty decent salary, Minneapolis is your place” I would be on board entirely.

        It’s the “for young people who want to get ahead” part of the claim where I get wishy. I think that’s too big a claim. I’m not clear who’s really getting ahead here. I may have an idiosyncratic feeling about that term, but that’s kind of the point: it’s all idiosyncrasy. There are only a few places no one can deny are places that clearly contribute as places to a person’s ability to get ahead (not that it’s likely you will if you go there): those few cities that are the central hubs for particular professions.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

        if you’re going into Robotics, you could really do worse than pittsburgh. Same thing with medicine, etc. I’m actually kinda curious what fields you’d say that about Minneapolis?Report

  3. Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

    I’m still looking for a place where everybody has money because of all of the good jobs there but nobody spends it on things like food or housing in that area, thus keeping prices really low.Report

  4. Avatar Will Truman says:

    If we use the statistical basis they use, then the real hub of economic opportunity lies in Nebraska, and Iowa.

    Or maybe mobility isn’t actually the best metric to use here as an indicator of economic opportunity?

    We could, more simply, compare cost of living and wages. See where that gets us. See how San Francisco and Dallas compare then.

    The notion that “Yes, it’s cheap there, but that’s because the jobs pay crap” is something people in high-cost areas tell themselves to make their personal and aesthetic preferences seem practical and economic. I mean, sometimes it’s true (Detroit is pretty cheap, I hear), but there are a lot more than three exceptions to that rule.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

      Right. There are too many other factors at play: density, housing supply, education, etc. For a long time, Austin was a good place to get ahead and a cheap place to live. Then housing development lagged behind demand and it started to become expensive to live here.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        Austin Metro still ranks pretty high, though we’ll have to see where things are in a few years. Austin has a lot of room for development up north. Which is something that San Francisco really doesn’t have. Also, while Austin may be attractive to wealthy people, San Francisco is a lot more attractive, which has an upward-pushing effect.

        Chances are, if you’re living somewhere for aesthetic or lifestyle reasons, you’re paying for it even after you account for boosted wages.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Austin is definitely at a crossroads, though it is currently pointed down the “expensive instead of dense” road.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:


      I don’t necessarily disagree with you. My only minor quibble is that I am skeptical about including resource extraction boom towns in the metric. Williston, North Dakota might be more expensive than SF right now but I wonder how many employees intend to stay in Williston for life even if you could prove that there was enough oil to last decades.

      Now what are you pointing out and is endlessly fascinating to me is the idea that everyone does make personal aesthetic choices and those that make counter choices are often seen as existential threats.


      I first of this guy yesterday. His advice seems to be that everyone should live on something like half their income or less and do a lot of saving, saving, saving. He claims he and his wife were able to retire in their 30s because of their radical savings.

      Now people can probably save more than they do and having a rainy day fund is a good idea. It is almost impossible to determine how big a rainy day fund should be though because you can never tell how long and hard a rainy period will last for and sometimes people get hit by a million whammies at once like getting a serious illness or accident happening at the same time as being laid off. No one can plan for that.

      Yet the radical savings of Mr. Money Moustache seems to be a political act wrapped up as financial advice.

      I am reminded of debates I get into with my mom from time to time. She has always been a Bay Area fanatic and her dream is to have everyone in the family out in the Bay Area. I’ve always been the biggest New York partisan in the family even if I’ve grown to love the Bay Area. Every now and then this results in circular discussions about why anyone would want to give up 65 degree temperatures in November and my response is always the same. “Why am I supposed to value 65 degree temperatures over the Brooklyn Academy of Music and MOMA and Film Forum?”Report

      • Who said anything about resource extraction? Or North Dakota?Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Apologies. I was bouncing off stuff in the comments section of the Atlantic article. I should of mentioned that.

        I am starting to wonder whether my extreme love of what can roughly be called “high culture” makes me a very odd duck in the United States. Most people seemingly don’t care about needing to live near an institution like the Brooklyn Academy of Music or Cal Performances and it is seemingly the hardest thing to explain why I really like/want living next to institutions like those mentioned above where you are likely to get tours from groups like the Propeller Company, Cheek By Jowl, Hamburg Ballet, etc.Report

      • It puts you pretty squarely in the mainstream of influential people.

        Anyway, with regard to your previous comment, I’m not sure I completely understand your response. I mean, sure, no matter how much you save it may never be enough, but it seems to me that “No matter how much you save, you could be wiped out” is a particularly good response. The more you have saved, the less you have to worry about being wiped out. The longer you can go in between jobs without having to take one you don’t want. The less likely a medical bankrupcy becomes, and so on. Your response seems to wish to vindicate “smoke’em while you got’em” which is a very poor financial strategy (though, of course, the only option available to some).

        Which isn’t to say that I disagree that it can be taken to excess. In some ways, I wish that I had been less financially responsible earlier in my life. My example is the “cashback” account on my credit card. It was something like $90 in 2004 and is something like $400. The thing is, though, that $90 in 2004 was psychologically way may than $400 now. As in, I would have enjoyed spending it more then.

        On the other hand, it taught me an approach to money that has served me extremely well. So there’s that.Report

      • Avatar dhex in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “I am starting to wonder whether my extreme love of what can roughly be called “high culture” makes me a very odd duck in the United States.”

        if it makes you feel better, having to constantly tell people about it makes you fairly unremarkable.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        While i’d probably love to be in a city with the Met — and other Institutions… I’d rather live in a city where I can actually afford to patronize the arts.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

      the thing about being in a low cost of living zone is it’s hard to move to a high cost of living zone.
      Start out in a high cost of living zone (particularly SF, since they plough so much towards their homes…), and you can always cash out and live someplace else later.Report

  5. Avatar James Hanley says:

    Isn’t Atlanta both?Report

  6. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Hell, the Houston metro area seems on par with the Puget Sound, and for my education & experience, Houston is swimming in opportunity.

    But I don’t even look for jobs there, and when the head hunters come knocking, nothing they are offering is paying enough to get me to overlook my personal negatives.Report

  7. Avatar Stillwater says:

    The paradox of the American Dream: The best cities to get ahead are often the most expensive places to live, and the most affordable places to live can be the worst cities to get ahead.

    Is that really a paradox? I was under the impression that a paradox was something like the set of all sets which are not members of themselves. This seems like something else, no?, something pretty easily explained by really basic economic principles (supply, demand, cost, benefit)?Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Stillwater says:

      Exactly this. If there was a great place to live that was really cheap and had a lot of jobs, you’d see a max influx of people moving in until the prices were bid up to be comparable to other nice places to live with lots of jobs. A really surprising and unexplainable result would be if you could actually find a great place to live where you could cash in by buying property there and not have the opportunity disappear as people take it.

      Perhaps we should move this discussion to the “Efficient Markets Hypothesis” thread.Report

      • “Great place” is accurate, though not the same as the criteria used by The Atlantic (which is not the same criteria as “good criteria”).

        The case that places with good jobs are inherently expensive (in conjunction with the goodness of the jobs) remains lacking. But the” great place to live” is a partial answer for the (more than few) places that disobey the trend.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        The case that places with good jobs are inherently expensive (in conjunction with the goodness of the jobs) remains lacking.

        Really? It seems like it comports well with economic theory and observation. What’s left?

        What I see in the papers seems to be people consistently scratching their heads over why their observations perfectly match what you’d expect in any functioning market. It’s like asking why there are no super profitable companies with stable future outlooks whose stock is cheap enough for a quick profit or why there isn’t a place where you can buy bars of gold at massively blow the global exchange rate. If such a thing exists in the short run, it only exists long enough for people to hear about it and bid up the price until it’s no longer worth pursuing.

        In the long run, there are lots of people moving all the time. They decide between places X, Y, and Z. If Z offers a higher standard of living, they’ll choose Z until that’s not the case. Even in the short run, if things get far enough out of whack, people will pull up and move just for that opportunity. At equilibrium, you’d expect the standard of living (income to cost of living ratio) to be equal among X, Y, and Z all else held equal. A surprising amount of ink is spilled over the fact that this appears to be the case.Report

      • It comports with theory, but the reality is more complicated. There is not, actually, anything close to a 1:1 relationship between how expensive a place is and the economic opportunity provided. Some places genuinely have higher wage/cost ratios than others. Some places, even relative the the wages, are genuinely expensive while other places are actually less so.

        Houston has a cost of living that is below the national average, and wages that are above. Providence has low wages and a high cost of living.

        This piece is barely looking on that, leaning heavily on another metric where western Nebraska scores higher than New York City, and Iowa scores better than Washington. West Virginia scores better than Virginia.

        Like I said, some people seem intent on clinging to the myth that lower cost-of-living means proportionally lower wages more-or-less along the same curve. Even as a “rule of thumb” there is just too much variation.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        It comports with theory, but the reality is more complicated.

        JR said it’s a consequence of supply and demand, so if you don’t think it’s true, you must not understand economics.Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        Are you arguing against the claim, “Home prices are 100% a function of median income in any given city?” If so, I’ll concede the point. Where I get hung up is what, aside from the fact that they’re both cities that a person could live in, Houston and Providence have in common that would make them useful in teasing out the value of the income variable in the housing price equation. I suppose they’re both (mostly) English speaking.

        I’m still going to stick my neck out there and say that the price of housing should be mostly explained by very few variables. Off the top of my head, median income, proximity to major metro areas, geography and climate should cover a lot of it. And income should cover a whole lot of it barring large differences in those other variables.

        I’m also going to say that none of this really changes my mind on the overall idea that we should be surprised that it’s hard to find “good deals” that nobody else has found in order to “get ahead,” much less that it’s any sort of a paradox. Going back to the economist joke in an earlier thread, the fact that it’s not easy for young people to find $50 bills on the ground isn’t a paradox, even if everybody wants to find $50 in the ground. It’s a simple function of the fact that they get picked up fast and the equilibrium state is “very few $50 bills on the ground.”Report

      • I’m arguing against the notion that cost of living rises roughly in proportion to salaries. And that if a place is cheaper, then wages must be correspondingly smaller. That there are no good deals. There are no places that are really better to get ahead, because if there were people would already be there and equilibrium would be reached. That’s demonstrably not the case. Some places are, actually, better than other places. The wage/cost ratio in Houston actually is better than the wage/cost ratio in Los Angeles. This remains the case because the reasons not to live in Houston are, actually, not economic in nature. If you’re willing to put up with the hurricanes, the heat, the humidity, and the Texans, if you’re moving across the country, the decision between Houston and Los Angeles is not actually an economically neutral one.

        My comment was actually in agreement with yours, for the most part, because you said “good places to live” which takes non-economic factors into account. I was pointing out that non-economic factors are the equilibriator. The piece, using data of questionable application, was suggesting that economics equilibriated itself with the exception of three places. That you’re pretty much (equally) (economically) damned no matter where you are. Again, it’s just not true. It’s not generally true enough to be useful. It’s only useful if you’re looking for reasons to rationalize a desire not to move to Houston or Atlanta into something that seems economically prudent.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        This remains the case because the reasons not to live in Houston are, actually, not economic in nature. If you’re willing to put up with the hurricanes, the heat, the humidity, and the Texans, if you’re moving across the country, the decision between Houston and Los Angeles is not actually an economically neutral one.

        Don’t forget the road system. I could imagine living in Houston if it had a different road system. The one it does have makes me want to throw things.Report

      • against the notion that cost of living rises roughly in proportion to salaries. And that if a place is cheaper, then wages must be correspondingly smaller. That there are no good deals. There are no places that are really better to get ahead, because if there were people would already be there and equilibrium would be reached.

        Is this what “getting ahead” is in the context of choosing where to live? Just paying less for the goods that are available in basically all places? (A view of the SF bay is not available in Houston.)Report

      • I consider “getting ahead” to be largely economic in nature. I’d put a view of the SF Bay in the same category s weather preferences. A reasonable criterion, but something preferred for reasons other than money.

        The tricky case is when we’re taking about getting ahead in one’s career when that does sometimes require one to live in a particular, often expensive place. That’s a more fuzzy one. Not necessarily strictly economic, but sometimes so, and something the phrase “getting ahead” does generally apply to.Report

      • when we’re taking about getting ahead in one’s career when that does sometimes require one to live in a particular, often expensive place. That’s a more fuzzy one. Not necessarily strictly economic, but sometimes so, and something the phrase “getting ahead” does generally apply to.

        Quite. Not fuzzy to me though. Getting ahead is primarily about career, saving money much more secondarily. To me getting ahead by a primary strategy of lowering costs (probably at significant cost to your consumption satisfaction when you’re not lying to yourself) is backing-into getting-ahead at best, and if it results in lost career opportunity at all is just failing to get ahead.Report

      • This is all pretty far out of the bound of the Atlantic article, though, which is looking at dollars and cents rather than the intangibles of career satisfaction (and geographic presence).

        Which pulls me back to previous points. If you want to live in the coast because you want to be near water, or because your career aspirations are stapled to it, that’s cool. Let’s just not pretend it’s an economically neutral decision, unless it specifically is (which, too be clear, sometimes it is).Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        On the point of what the Atlantic article claims or thinks it claims, I honestly can’t figure out how the data they’re presenting (and how they’re presenting it) is even supposed to support their point. It’s a bizarre set of metrics presented in a not-particularly-easy-to-interpret way.Report

      • Agreed that the Atlantic article only talks about economic opportunity and cost of living, saying there are only a very few that are agreeable on both, and that you disagree.

        But I’ve been clear that I’m interested in this phrase “getting ahead,” pointed to where Matt Yglesias uses it, and now you’ve used it. People seem interested in it. (Not sure if it’s in the Atlantic article.) The point is, yes, there are places you can go that have undifferentiated economic opportunity and (at present) low COL, but since people seem to feel the need to rhetorically expand that combination into something even better-sounding – “getting ahead” – maybe it’s the case that just those things aren’t really what people tend to be interested in. Maybe they’re interested in… getting ahead. Which might mean a whole suite of other things. We know the ones that are interested in getting ahead are interested in getting ahead, at least.

        If you’re saying only that it’s it’s strictly true that there are more places with economic opportunity and low cost of living than some let on, then that’s all you should say. (I’m not clear what Yglesias means to say when he says that people looking to get ahead should move to the Twin Cities.)Report

      • I used the please “getting ahead” because you did. I haven’t read the Yglesias article and was trying to fit it in the context of The Atlantic’s article.Report

      • I used the please “getting ahead” because you did.

        Well, I figured. Rather pointedly, I thought (though of course I wasn’t sure). That’s why I’m gettin’ after it.;) You wanted to make the point that you have a position on the use of the term here, so we’re talking about it.Report

      • I honestly don’t have strong feelings about that phrase. If someone wants to define “getting ahead” by meaning of “getting closer to career aspirations” then it does seem quite reasonable to me to choose to live in a place where that is most likely to happen.

        I was defining “getting ahead” by a more strictly economic definition because I thought we were talking about The Atlantic article, and not Yglesias’s response to it.

        But maybe Yglesias described it in the same way (economic, as opposed to lifestyle or career goals) and you’re taking issue with that? If so, I can understand, and I don’t particularly disagree. At least, I agree with the notion that we have our own definitions of “getting ahead” that can refer to career or money.

        I’ll go a step further and say that for some career paths, New York City is a much better place to get ahead than Minnesota, or Houston. If those are your goals and that’s how you define “getting ahead.”Report

      • @troublesome-frog @will-truman It seems like the proper way to read all this is that:
        1. The availability of wages and economic mobility are significant factors in demand for housing in a particular location, and thereby have a significant impact on the affordability of housing in that location.
        2. They are not the only factors in creating demand.
        3. As such, a functioning market under basic economic theory should have a strong correlation between wages and economic mobility, but not an absolute, one-to-one correlation.
        4. The data in the Atlantic piece bear this out and are consistent with points 1-3.
        5. They are not consistent with a claim that economic mobility and affordable housing do not coexist, nor are they consistent with a suggestion that there is something problematic about there being a strong correlation between mobility and unaffordability.

        The hard data on this don’t really seem to be very useful to prove much of any political point. Places that tend to have a lack of economic mobility are places where the economy is particularly poor and where those who are able to obtain significant marketable job skills are likely to flee to other places. They’re indeed largely places with declining populations, especially in the Great Lakes region where the weather is horrible to go along with the diminishing economic opportunities. Declining populations mean an oversupply of existing housing in addition to the decreased demand for outsiders to move in due to the lack of economic opportunity. This “brain drain” also, I might add, means that your intergenerational mobility statistics are going to look even worse since you’ve lost the people most capable of bucking the trends.

        Those populations go to places where there are economic opportunities, but to the extent they have a choice as to which such place to go, they will frequently choose that place based largely on non-economic factors. In other words, especially if you’re a young person, you generally won’t choose San Francisco over Salt Lake City because the economic opportunities in San Francisco are better – they’re probably about equal for our purposes – but because, say, you can find good bars and better food in San Francisco, etc.

        All that said, I wanted to point out one or two things I noticed about the Atlantic piece that are totally misleading.

        First, the comparison between the mobility and affordability data is rather poor, in that the two data sets do not study the same populations. The affordability data is with respect to MSAs, but the mobility data is with respect to “commuting zones.” These are not the same thing – in fact there are several “commuting zones” that are not included at all in the MSA data (and vice versa).

        The Atlantic piece does not acknowledge this and instead strongly implies that the same 50 regions are included in both studies. And some of the regions that are not included in both studies would significantly affect the correlation data.

        Second, the Atlantic piece treats Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and SLC as “outliers” that do not warrant inclusion in the graph. The reason they’re viewed as outliers is arbitrary – they’re the only cities in the top 10 of income mobility that are also listed as being affordable by over 50%. But how do you reach the conclusion that 3 out of 10 makes for an outlier? That’s….horrible statistics, especially when only about half of the cities in the survey fit the description of being affordable by over 50%.

        But it gets worse. Two of those three (Pittsburgh and SLC) aren’t just in the top 10, they’re actually the top two most economically mobile cities in the countries. How do you draw generalizations about the most economically mobile cities by excluding the two most economically mobile cities?

        And we’re not done. Remember that there’s several cities that are only in one of the two studies, and that the Atlantic piece fails to mention this, instead saying only vaguely that not all of the top 50 MSAs are included in the Atlantic’s graph?

        One of these is Manchester, NH, which is actually the 7th most economically mobile city in the country, and from what I can tell would probably rank better than SLC in terms of housing affordability.

        If we add that to the list, suddenly 4 of the top 10 most economically mobile cities are affordable, which is pretty hard to draw any conclusions from.

        And we’re still not done – he uses Ventura County, CA, which is neither one of the 50 largest MSA nor a separate “commuting zone” for purposes of the mobility survey, even if you look at the raw data rather than just the top 50 commuting zones. It looks like he might have just assumed this to be equivalent to the LA data, which he was already including in the graph, meaning that he’s double counting that data.

        In addition to arbitrarily excluding 4 of the 10 most mobile cities as “outliers” because they don’t fit his thesis or because they’re not in the Trulia data, he appears to have included all of the remaining top 10 most mobile cities that do fit his thesis, plus double counting the LA mobility data (11th most mobile).

        If you add just those 4 arbitrarily discarded data points and get rid of the arbitrarily included Ventura County data point, that graph looks a hell of a lot different. There’s still a correlation – again, there should be one – but it’s not nearly as strong as the original graph implies.

        And if you expand things to the top 100 largest commuting zones, I’m pretty sure the correlation looks even weaker – the top 10 most mobile cities on that list are as follows:

        Scranton, PA
        Reading, PA
        Des Moines
        Toms River, NJ
        Pittsburgh, PA
        Allentown, PA
        San Jose

        At least 6 of those are going to be on anyone’s list of affordable places, including each of the top 4.Report

      • @mark-thompson

        You did a lot of legwork here, but you’re still giving the piece too much credit. Case-in-point…

        Places that tend to have a lack of economic mobility are places where the economy is particularly poor and where those who are able to obtain significant marketable job skills are likely to flee to other places.

        The people who leave that particularly poor place would, according to the metric used, still count towards that place. Tim Cook made millions in Silicon Valley, but if he were a data point he would score economic mobility points for his native Alabama. The same for Mark Zuckerberg, who would count towards New Jersey. It’s not based on where you are after you graduate, but where you were raised (more specifically, where you lived when you were 16).

        Here’s an article from the New York Times talking about the study. Note the references to upbringing. This is citing the same study. On page two of the study:

        We assign children to commuting zones based on where they lived at age 16 – i.e., where they grew up – irrespective of whether they left that CZ afterward.

        Which makes using this data to talk about where people move after finishing school… questionable. To say the least.

        @troublesome-frog If I was failing to explain what, precisely, my objection was to the article, this is it. On an axis of two metrics, one of them was a dreadfully bad one to use.Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Troublesome Frog says:


        Dayum. That was one righteous fisking.Report

      • Avatar Kim in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        a good deal of the reason the article got published was to inspire talk/interest in the outliers…
        As a PR piece, it appears to have gotten its message across to everyone except Saul.Report

  8. Avatar Damon says:

    There are many other factors not mentioned either. Industry is one. If you work in politics or gov’t, you’re pretty limited to state capitals and the DC area for mobility/advancement. Any ancillary industries/professions will be located there too. Then there’s the defense industry, which does have sites all over the country, but the strongest concentration is in the DC area. Assuming you manage to move to a lower cost area, it’s likely that your upward mobility will be severely limited unless you move as the density of jobs and variety is more limited.

    That’s why people like me have long commutes. We drive into the higher cost areas for work and live in the, relatively cheaper, areas.Report

  9. Avatar Kazzy says:


    A challenge, if you’ll indulge me…

    Describe your ideal city. Than propose how you’d sustain it.Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    Even if your hypothesis is accurate, which I admit I’m unsure on, I don’t see why one would wish to depress the growth of housing supplies so fewer non-rich people can live in the given area.Report

  11. Avatar Kim says:

    Dude, did you not read the damn article you linked?
    “In 2013, Chetty and a phalanx of economists produced a one-of-a-kind study on intergenerational mobility—that is, the odds that low-income households can work their way into the middle class and above. Comparing social mobility by metro area, they discovered that the American Dream is alive in many cities, like Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, and San Jose. But it’s dying in others, particularly across the southeast and the Rust Belt, where cities are spread out, segregated, and blighted by bad schools and broken families.”

    I’m sorry, but by any standard, Pittsburgh has a low cost of living, and Cheap as HELL housing.Report