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Birth Rates Dropped Most in U.S. Counties Where Home Prices Grew Most (zillow.com)
496 points by jseliger 36 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 343 comments

From previous:

"In nations in the West, an important limiting factor is the ability to get one’s own apartment. That is, the ratio of average male wage to average rent. In the USA, the happiest year for this ratio was 1958, when people were spending 22% of their income on rent, on average. Not by coincidence, this was the peak year of the Baby Boom. In some sense, it was the best year in history to be a young white male in the USA. It was the year when it was easiest for an 18 year old male to get out of high school, get their own apartment, marry their high school sweetheart, and start a family. And of course, young people did this in huge numbers, which is why 1958 remains the peak year for teenage pregnancy in the USA."


1958 is when men had the best wage to rent ratio, and that helped create families and have children. And likewise, nowadays, as rents increase faster than wages, we should expect the birth rate to decline.

In pretty much every analysis involving housing costs, I try to mention that percentage of income spent on housing is not a great metric. A better metric is absolute income minus housing costs.

All else being equal, I would gladly earn $1 million per year and spend 75% of it on rent, because that remaining 25% would be a heck of a lot of money.

I doubt this metric would significantly change the conclusions of this article, but I’d like to see that metric used.

> All else being equal, I would gladly earn $1 million per year and spend 75% of it on rent

Ah, so you want to live in San Francisco

There IS a reason why rent in high cost areas are so, well, costly.

If you go to NYC or SF and make 400k/year after tax, who cares if housing costs you 300k out of that. Especially if you're buying, in which case you can get part of your money back once you sell.

And when the bubble pops, how long will you be able to make your 30k/month mortgage payments?

You won’t, because you were smart and rented instead. :)

haha, but what if it doesn't pop and we see something like Japan's economy from the early 90's on? High prices that never come down, combined with wage stagnation? We're kind of already seeing it now.

You can then move to a flyover state in the mid-west, and buy a palace for the $100,000/year you were stashing away.

This is the future. Silicon valley rent problems are a network optimization problem best solved by pushing resources to the edge of the graph.

Ya it has to be. We have so many square miles of underutilized cheap land between the costs it's crazy. The federal government owns around 60-90% of the land in the western states too. If only there was a way to communicate without being face to face.

Especially with the type of technical work that's so predominate on the west coast.

A lot of that work could be moved to cheaper interior parts of the country.

Yet for some reason tech giants insist on building more opulent, centralized megaoffices in unaffordable areas. Perhaps it is because they do not bear the brunt of these costs.

One reason is that the executives who make the decisions on office locations can easily afford to live nearby. And most of them prefer to live in fashionable areas.

Japanese real estate has been in a hole for a long time. It's significantly cheaper to live in Tokyo than in a major US city now.

Wages have to stagnate for a whole long time for our 200k+ salaries to lose their value.

I'll worry about that in 10 years if that happens. Plenty of time.

Woah, when did renting became the smart choice?

As a thought experiment, imagine that you could rent a million dollar house for 1$/year. Then renting is obviously the smart thing to do. So rental yields are an important factor, as are your expectations of house price growth, opportunity costs etc.

But if rental yields are low (as they are now) and you do not expect house prices to rise at a fast rate in the future, renting can easily be the smart choice.

Regarding future house price increases. It seems to me that house prices can be approximated as a function of rents, interest rates (determining required return on owning a house), and anticipated growth in house prices (which again can be decomposed into growth in rents, reduction in interest rates and 'irrational' growth). Using London as an example. Rental yields appear to be around 3.5% in London at the moment, which suggests to me that a good deal of anticipated growth is priced in. But where can that growth come from? Rents are a function of incomes and are unlikely to outpace inflation. Interest rates seem to be more likely to go up than down. So it seems that house prices are unlikely to rise, and once that is realized by the market, prices may even come down as participants stop anticipating growth just because "London house prices always go up".

House prices going up faster than rents in recent decades can probably be explained by interest rates being in a downward trend over the same decades. Now we seem to be in at least somewhat of a bubble due to irrational future growth expectations.

I'm general, when the price-to-rent ratio is too high. Last I heard San Francisco averages >30. It only makes sense (financially) to own if the price-to-rent ratio is under ~15. If you're an investor looking to become a landlord don't even consider buying a property if the price-to-rent ratio is greater than 8.

Its a smart choice in other situations too - like when you are intending to live somewhere on a temporary basis, for example. You would certainly be better off (again, financially!!) if you were renting a room for a couple hundred bucks a month if that allowed you to sock away $2,000 a month into your retirement funds. That's provided you have the ability to actually save/invest the extra money you have, a mortgage can act like a forced savings account for some people.

Its too late to edit this post, but I should be more clear that the parent post is a major generalization, your individual factors will vary if it makes sense (financially!) to rent vs buy for your primary residence. Price-to-rent ratio is a big factor, but not the only one. There's also a lot of luck and factors out of your control that contribute to if you make out ahead (financially!) either way. I just looked up the data on Zillow and the average P/R ratio in San Fran isn't as bad as I thought, but still extremely high.

Anyway, when you're talking about buying vs renting you're also heavily involving non-financial factors that are usually MUCH more important than financial factors (assuming you have some sort of a budget); so something might be a "smart choice" for an individual but not the most financially optimal one. Just like eating lentils and ramen noodles every day might be the most financially optimal choice but is probably not a "smart choice" for most people. In fact, if you have a family you probably aren't going to make the most financially optimal housing choice unless you absolutely have to.

A real world example:

I have friends who are renting a decent single family house with tons of land for an absurdly low price (family price!) and the landlord (family member) even pays utilities because it's just "easier" and she isn't trying to make a profit. Factoring in depreciation and amortized repair/upkeep costs the landlord is almost certainly subsidizing their housing costs. Financially, great deal! They will almost certainly never have a chance to have a full house that cheap ever again. Staying there as long as the landlord lets them is the most financially optimal choice. However, for a number of complicated (but understandable) reasons, my friends hate it and are planning to move whenever they have saved up more and paid down their loan balances.

There's a great writeup on this -- I may have even seen it here [1]. On average house prices tend to keep up with inflation and trail the market across the US. In specific markets that may not be true, then there's all your expenses. Ultimately, it depends on your personal situation if you should buy or rent, and the New York Times has a great calculator [2].

tl;dr: It's not always the smart choice to buy. Or to rent.

[1] https://affordanything.com/is-renting-better-than-buying-sho...

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/upshot/buy-rent-cal...

When it became the only choice

If you were smarter you'd have commuted in from the suburbs and banked the money for retirement.

Spending your day commuting and living in a car dependent hell hole is smarter, just because you can retire a bit sooner? What alternative universe has HN transformed into?

For NYC it can be an easy 30-45 minute train ride where you are free to occupy your time with something productive.

Something productive that can be done in a car or train you mean. Not, say:

- Being with your kids, spouse or helping them out to school or work

- Housekeeping

- Working out

- Doing anything that requires undisturbed attention

As someone with a long train commute, my train time is basically my non-productive "me time". Read a book, read the internet, take a nap, program on fun, non-work projects. If I'm at home, I'm usually engaged in child-care or house-care of some flavor or another, with very little time for simple idleness.

To your last point: in NYC it's pretty easy to do things requiring "undisturbed attention" on a 45 minute express Metro North train into the city from the suburbs. It's a very different experience from the subway.

As for the other three, I guess I could say that I'm not sure it's realistic to try and budget your time so efficiently that a 30-45 minute commute is intolerable. Many people have commutes for which that's a margin of error on how long it will take them - that sounds like a real problem.

Aside from working from home full time, what kind of commute are you looking to have, and at what distance from work? It's not realistic for most people to achieve a 15 minute commute, so 30-45 in a train really isn't that bad. If it really matters then you could do things on the train that would normally keep you from your spouse or kids at home :)

I'm one of those 30-45 minute margin-of-error folks- I'd move into Hoboken or Brookyln for a 45 minute commute in two seconds!

My friend does the Go Train from Oshawa to Toronto every work day. She spends the time on the train either reading a book or watch a video of a show she is following.

On the way home she will sometimes watch a movie and finish it at home. Time on the train does not have to be work or a vegetable.

Just to add perspective here. Toronto anywhere proper, you have to get on a bus generally, to get to the station. Then you have to take the train south to Union. Then take the GO, East to Oshawa. The entire trip can be done in less than hour, but you are walking between connecting options for 10-15 minutes which limits your "free time."

The idea here is many people want a house and if you aren't DINKs then Oshawa was cheaper in housing a while ago. Now it's almost similar to Toronto cost and rent is nearing.

You can trivially get a 30 minute commute just within SF. I imagine other expensive cities are similar. Living within a few minutes of work is a real luxury for all but remote workers.

Depending on how early you retire it can be the smart choice.

That’s 2+ hours per day of your life that you’re never getting back. You can always make more money, but time lost is gone forever.

How much is 2x5x52 = 520 hours worth to you?

If you’re selling your time for even just $100/hour that’s $52,000/year right there. With a 300k salary your hour is worth way more than $100. For your family, it’s priceless.

If you commute by train it’s not all necessarily wasted time. You can read, play games, listen to podcasts, etc.

I always read many more books when I commuted than when I didn’t commute. I find myself making new year’s resolutions to read more. But it was easy when I had the commute as a forcing function. (Not having internet on the subway probably helped...)

If you don’t think reading books is valuable enough to do when you aren’t commuting, is it really valuable to you? Or are you just doing the best you can to salvage a shitty situation?

(I audiobook when running so I’m no better)

I always find other more pertinent/alarming things I need to do at home and the forced lack of internet makes me focus more than I normally would.

Admittedly this doesn't say great things about my attention span...

I think it is valuable, I’m just bad at organising and prioritising my spare time!

300k a year post tax, 50 weeks a year, 50 hours a week, that's $120 an hour.

If it takes an extra hour a day and $500 a month that's $3000 to save a month in housing costs

Don’t forget to take transportation cost out of your $3000 per month.

I live across the street from the office and yes the rent is stupid, but my commute is a 5 minute walk.

And rent is still stupid in a 30min radius (for a total of 1h/day). You really have to go 1h+ radius to make a significant dent in rent around here (SF).

I did - $500 a month. I have no idea what communitng costs, and little idea about rent.

I have a 5 second commute from the bedroom to the office (3 minutes if I go downstairs and boil the kettle first), far easier. Monthly Mortgage is less than the weekly rent that one colleague pays in London, and he still has a 45 minute commute each way.

If you are working for somebody else, you can't exactly make any extra money by working extra hours. At least in a programmers case.

The only real thing to gain in this case is convenience.

I work full time in software engineering and do occasional paid freelancing work. It's quite possible to be full time and work extra.

Depends on your contract and whether you get paid overtime.

It's essentially unpaid work. So you "upgrade" your 40 hour week to a 50 hour week.

In SF the suburbs are called Silicon Valley and are also expensive.

Sufficiently expensive that when I consider Silicon Valley jobs in my future, I also consider getting a pilot license and commuting by plane from the central valley.

There are also suburbs across the bay that are cheaper.


Right now though, my 401k has been doing 15-18% for the last couple of years. My condo has been going up in value by about 13%/year, but I put 20% down and I think I'm at 30-35% equity, and my monthlies are cheaper than an equivalent rental.

The rent + invest vs buy + bank on property value debate is age old, and I won't restart it here, but so far, I'm not doing terrible.

Yea and the majority of people don’t make anywhere near 400k. You still need a huge low paid workforce to get things running. Firemen, police, teacher, retail and grocery workers, cleaners, bus drivers, plumbers and the like.

None of those positions are low paid outside of teenage retail/grocery workers.

Fire/police/teacher/plumbers are very well paid.

Cleaning is hit and miss, specialty cleaning is borderline extortion.

Still, I know that most cleaning people get paid min 15$/hr.

At 15$/hr, 30k/yr is plenty to live.

please show specific details on your claim that teachers are well-paid

fire, police, teacher, and plumbers are all in the $40k - $60k range, at least in the US. I wouldn't call that well paid.

I do not consider plumbers low-paid.

I would agree with you and I actually looked up some numbers. 56k was an average for an experienced plumber on his own. Not to mention they have to invest in tools.

I remember an article showing up a while back about a unionized BART janitor raking in nearly 300k.

That's someone who learned how to game the OT system. A real issue, sure, but not at all indicative of how much BART employees make. It's the same kind of manipulative bullshit that spawned the 'Welfare Queen' myth.

So your example is one Janitor out of how many in SF?

>There IS a reason why rent in high cost areas are so, well, costly.

Yeah, it's the ratio of population to number of housing units.

Exactly, I'm glad someone else realizes this. I live in Boston. It's the 4th most expensive city in the USA [0]. It's most decidedly not the 4th best city to live in the USA. The fact that enough NIMBY attitudes and construction unions have jacked up the cost of housing doesn't suddenly make it paradise.

[0] https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/08091...

Wouldn't you know it! I live in Boston too. I think we're a good prototype case since, well, we're such a shithole in so many ways.

Every year the Globe runs a story on Massachusetts losing its young and poor population to the Sun Belt, but if you bring up building more apartment buildings, people yell that you should Go Back Where You Come From.

I’d guess that, in practice, the ratio is more important for birth rates. Humans seem to be wired to judge their position in life relative to those around them. So, you make more, but then you end up around other people who also make more. And now it doesn’t feel like you’re making that much money. The crazy thing is that this seems to hold true almost all the way up to the 1%.

IMO, the winning strategy is to be weird.

It’s not about you, it’s about aggregate housing costs. If everyone was earning $1mn and spending $750k on rent, the remaining $250k may not be a lot of money.

But of course you’re right, everything else being equal I would also be happy to earn $1bn and spend 99% on rent.

No, the aggregate isn't important: the thought experiment is the same as if everybody earned $251k and spend $1k on rent -- but the percentage of income spend on rent would be radically different. But yes, if everybody suddenly had $250k disposable income, prices would be higher.

I think the point GP is trying to make, is that it matters more if you can afford in absolute dollars to have a family on whatever is left when you're done paying rent, not what the percentage is.

And my point is that an “everything else being equal” argument about the income and spending of an individual is not particularly useful when discussing demographic issues.

Yes, the cost of things is more expensive in dense cities, but by 2x-3x for some services and not at all for buying a pair of jeans from a retailer - those prices are pretty much uniform everywhere, modulo state/local taxes. I'll argue that one's quality of life is better in SV on $250k vs $70k in the rural midwest or $100k in a midwestern city - obviously this will depend on spending patterns, which depends on personal preferences. But for me, it's a conscious decision to make more and spend more on a west coast city.

The problem is you need more space after having kids. If your already spending 75% of your income on rent adding another room is not feasible.

Or more basically you need a significant surplus to be able to afford kids.

That entirely depends on the income level you're talking, which is the OP's point. If you're making $10 mil and spending $7.5 mil on housing, you probably already have enough rooms to have kids. And even if you didn't, you could surely find room in your remaining $2.5 mil to add a room onto your house or find a slightly bigger place. This obviously does not apply if you're making $50k... Hence why absolutes are relevant.

You are assuming that 7.5 million buys a multi room home. At the extreme it may only rent you a 350 square foot apartment.

Some people might spend 75% of their income on massive dwellings, but most people downsize if possible before going past 55% of income. And as we are talking about things on the social not individual level those preferences matter.

I guess his point is that what is important is the amount of money that is left after paying rent that you can use to raise kids (at least in this context). An homeless person spends 0% of his income in rent, but he's not in a good position to raise kids

What baddox's comment (about only the difference mattering) misses is this: what if you need another bedroom?

In other words, it's ignoring the fact that houses come in many sizes. Anyone spending 75% of income on housing has an enormous incentive to choose a slightly smaller apartment. And is completely unable to contemplate expanding slightly. What if you want two kids... and the second one turns out to be twins? Can their grandmother come to stay for the summer & help out?

If you're spending 20% of income on housing, then you have a lot more room to solve these problems. (And, as others pointed out, to get a different job which pays slightly less, etc.)

Me and my sister shared a bedroom in a two bedroom apartment for a few years. I recentlty had neighbors that had a one bedroom with two kids. I'm not sure where this requirement of one bedroom per child comes from. Really, that's just a luxury.

> I'm not sure where this requirement of one bedroom per child comes from. Really, that's just a luxury



> The average American house size has more than doubled since the 1950s; it now stands at 2,349 square feet.

> Back in the 1950s and '60s, people thought it was normal for a family to have one bathroom, or for two or three growing boys to share a bedroom. Well-off people summered in tiny beach cottages on Cape Cod or off the coast of California

Indeed, I make no claim about the size of house you ought to be able to afford.

But families always have more need of space than the childless. This makes anyone contemplating children very sensitive to questions like "how much of my present after-rent income must I give up for another 100 sq ft?". And this will be very different for the guy who's found himself spending 75% (to be near google, or whatever) and the guy spending 20% (in 1958).

You are missing one important factor: prices of locally rendered services will factor in the high housing costs of the service provider workers, and of service establishments. I.e., all the services will be significantly more expensive just as well.

And even goods' prices will reflect the high rent costs, given that stocking & sale of good requires[1] employment of local workers, and purchase/rental of local commercial space.

-- [1] even the automated, self-service stores require certain amount of human work as of now.

So you need absolute income minus housing costs [PPP]?

Well, it would be PPP adjusted income minus nominal housing costs then. But since housing costs factor into everything you purchase, that metric would probably only give you a sense what was being spent locally vs. spent everywhere else and/or saved.

While you are right, it is an exceptional scenario to earn that kind of money. So it is statistically insignificant to calculate absolute income minus rents etc.

It's quite significant even within much more common ranges. If you make $60K/year and spend 25% of it on rent, you net nearly 20% more than someone who makes $40K and spends 5% on rent. Looking solely at percentage of income spent on housing will lead you to a very wrong conclusion in that circumstance.

You're forgetting about income tax.

Then factor that in as well. The divide between $60K/25% and $40K/5% will still be substantial.

No, this should end up being about the same. This means that household is extremely over leveraged in household cost. Suppose that their income is cut in half, they would have to come up with 250k just to keep their housing expenses alive. The net result of this is that on average you would be averse to having kids if you knew that they could suddenly be thrust into this circumstance.

> I would gladly earn $1 million per year and spend 75% of it on rent

No, you wouldn’t. As income goes higher, long-distance transportation becomes (a) more comfortable and (b) smaller as a fraction of income. De-camping to Washington State and commuting to San Francisco doesn’t make sense at $200,000; it does at $1 or 2 million.

I'm not sure I follow. Assuming the $1 million is post tax, it equates to $250,000 post tax and nearly entirely disposable income. Compared to, say, someone making $200,00 post tax and spending only 25% of that on rent it is strictly better. The point that the above commenter is making is that if the percentage of income spent on rent is higher, but the purchasing power adjusted income is higher it can cancel out.

I'm not sure what transportation has to do with this. Someone could increase their commute time to reduce rent, but that's the case regardless of income.

I think he's saying that as absolute incomes get higher, commuting cost as a percentage of income drops, because commuting cost is largely fixed regardless of income. And so it makes more sense to live in a low-COL region and commute to a high-COL region.

For the average person, flying to work every day is unrealistic. If you are making $1M/year, it suddenly becomes very realistic. Same day roundtrips between SFO and Seattle via coach are about $200 when purchased 3 months out. Times 200 workdays/year, that's only $40K/year. You end up way ahead financially buying in Seattle and commuting by plane to your job in SF, if you're willing to stomach the ~6 hours/day of commuting time.

Then if you don't want to spend an hour and a half in the terminal, you can fly private jet. Private jet time apparently runs about $5k/hour. At ~600 hours/year, you're looking at about 3 million a year to commute by private jet from Seattle to SFO. Still out of your price range at a million in salary, but quite doable if you were making say $10m, and your commute time isn't much worse than sitting in traffic on 101 between Google and the Marina.

Replace Seattle with Las Vegas and all 3 of (housing, flight time, expense) get better. Round-trip to Vegas is about an hour and a half; coach prices go as low as $59 and private jet prices would be about $1-1.5M/year; and houses can be had for $200K, freeing up lots of money for flying.

There are a variety of private jet subscription offerings popping up, including Surfair: https://www.surfair.com/us/membership-pricing/ That one is only $2k/month for unlimited trips between a few locations in California. I don't know how restrictive their scheduling options are, though (i.e., could you actually commute daily with the service?).

Yes you can do daily. Although they've recently reduced their flights by quite a bit so now some days/location combinations are no longer available.

If you don't mind missing a flight now and then, you can shave down the time waiting in the terminal quite a bit. Flights run constantly, so you can just take the next one. Uber is a big timesaver too, as you can walk out the terminal and get picked up / dropped off and no futzing with parking/renting.

Why would you commute for 6 hours for $200 when you could stay in a hotel during the week? What's the point in going "home" to sleep?

The thought-experiment that started this thread assumes that rent in SF would reach $750K/year if salaries were $1M/year. Hotel rates are unlikely to stay at $200/night if rent is $750K/year. If they rise proportionally, expect hotel rates of ~$4000/night at that price level.

> Why would you commute for 6 hours for $200 when you could stay in a hotel during the week?

Tax residency.

Is it better?

Consider what happens if you lose that job. How much money do you need saved up to live the next 6 months in both scenarios?

If I pay $750K/yr, I need $325K saved up to pay rent for 6 months. That will take me 1.3 years of saving to get to that threshold (assuming I pay for nothing else - food, etc).

If I pay $50K/yr, I need $25K saved up to pay rent for 6 months. It will take me 4 months.

Depending on how long you live, etc, I suppose there is a point where the former is better. But not in the short term. That's assuming you're paying mortgage and not rent. What if this is pure rent?

Then you have to pay that much even in retirement. That means you have to save up a lot more in the first scenario before you can retire, and may have to work longer, despite the higher pay, and the higher savings.

Of course, you can always retire in a cheaper place, but that's a matter of preference. I would rather retire in the place I lived much of my life in - not in some strange city.

You're assuming that people would have to live in the same place after their employment ends (you do bring this up later, though). This definitely isn't the case for me; I've moved every single time I've changed jobs.

The point remains, in the first scenario the person has $250,000 worth of disposable income. In the latter it's only $150,00. The former is in a much better position to build up saving. Heck, even one year's worth of post-rent income in savings is enough to spend as much money as the average American annual income (~35k) for the next 7 years.

> Then you have to pay that much even in retirement. That means you have to save up a lot more in the first scenario before you can retire, and may have to work longer, despite the higher pay, and the higher savings. Of course, you can always retire in a cheaper place, but that's a matter of preference. I would rather retire in the place I lived much of my life in - not in some strange city.

Sure, but now you're talking about a drastically different scenario if the resident has concluded they will live the rest of their life in their apartment. In that scenario, optimizing for post-employment living is a more important factor. But until unless you've decided to retire in your current apartment, the first choice is strictly better.

I'm a glad your comment is more nuanced this time. Your original one had:

>Compared to, say, someone making $200,00 post tax and spending only 25% of that on rent it is strictly better.

I stand by the notion that the first scenario (making $1M and spending $750k in rent) is strictly better than the second. Of course I also agree that making zero dollars and spending $750k in rent is considerably worse than spending $50K rent. But that wasn't part of the original comment.

Essentially, I claimed that Scenario X is better than scenario Y, but now you're saying "but! What if scenario X suddenly becomes scenario Z?".

I said “all else being equal,” and the example was deliberately hyperbolic to make the math obvious.

If I earnt a million a year, I wouldn't be commuting more than 5 minutes to to work. Commuting sucks.

If you ever live with anyone else you will probably have to optimize multiple commutes (or proximity to other resources). Your salary likely won't have much impact on that decision.

In my particular case, I work at the same place as my wife.

> No, you wouldn’t.

I can say with absolute certainty that I'd be pretty damn happy with $250k post-rent income.

I think the dispute is more wether 75% rent is a likely choice in the million dollar scenario.

(vs the contentment with remainder)

This entire thread is so strange to me, if you're spending $750000 per year renting, shouldn't you be buying $750,000 properties once a year instead?

I think the idea that the grandparent commenter was pointing out is that pointing to higher percentages of income going towards rent is an overly simplistic metric. If the percentage of income spent on rent goes from, say, 20 to 40%, but average incomes double then the total amount of post-rent income still went up by 50%.

We're talking about San Francisco. There aren't any $750k properties. ;)

It's actually not that expensive to commute by air to SF. There are 261 working days in a year, and say $200 air fair per day, that's $55,200 in air fair. It'll cost more than that with to/from the airport, so say a hundred grand. This becomes doable at far less than $1m. I've made many day trips to SF from Seattle, and the plane was usually full of such day trippers.

Of course, if your employer is flexible, it can cost far less.

Better donate that $100k/year to scientology, or spend it in Las Vegas, it will have a more positive effect on your life than commuting to work by plane every day.

My comment was merely about the finances. One may also find such an arrangement more workable with working 2 days a week at home, or stay overnight frequently in SF.

Yeah, this. There is no way that would work.

> No, you wouldn’t.

The hell I would too.

Protip for those of you who are rolling in the $$ and considering this:

The locals hate it when you do this because you screw with their low CoL so please don't shove it in their face by being politically active as well.

No you wouldn't be glad because most of that remaining $250K would go towards paying other people's rents... E.g. When you go to a restaurant, everything on the menu would cost more to cover their rent. The cost of rent factors into pretty much anything that money can buy.

I think you have to consider downside risk, if the economy goes bad or you lose your job how easily can you make rent and survive? At 75% you have much less margin than at 22%.

It's the average. If the median wage was $1MM all goods would be way more expensive.

But all this is wrong because rents rise to soak up income. If we all earned $1MM rents would be most of that if all other goods stayed the same.

This was shown. When household incomes increased as women working became the norm, households had more to spend on housing, which meant house prices ballooned. Much of the rest of the money was taken by things like childcare, gardening, cleaners, etc.

This had the end result that those who want to stay at home can't, society is now based arround two decent income salaries.

Because the ratio is what makes people aim low or high. If it takes 75% to have a house, is very attractive to live in something smaller and pocket the delta for fun and games (and/or stash it away for a downpayment later in life). High wage/rent areas will only exaggerate this, since many of the luxuries in question are not coupled to local markets (gadgets, vacations, stressing away for living in a cheaper place)

If shelter is cheap, skimping there won't be worth it.

Exaggerated example: in a high wage/rent area, I'd rather have a boat than an extra bedroom. In a low wage/rent area, I'd rather have an extra bedroom than a slightly bigger TV.

I have argued for the same as well, but not many cares.

However I don't believe in minus housing cost, as everything is relative. We should simply have housing cost / wages shown at different distribution level. Median, 60% and 80%, etc.

Although I am glad the world has finally caught up to the housing prices problem. Hong Kong people has been crying about it for decades.

If you live in an area where housing costs are high, most other cost is likely also higher (tax, food, daycare, school, etc.).

The ratio of income is important in another way. Many apartments (in the Los Angeles area at least) want or require tenants to only spend X% of their gross income on rent. Places with $750k/year rent probably don't care, but for the median working American it matters a lot.

And that remaining 25% would help you pay for rent in retirement... How?

Not everyone wants to move to Ohio to retire.

That pretty much strengthens the position of the article, assuming living surface need increases proportionally with head count. Then adding people to your family will quickly become unsustainable because your income is fixed but costs increase far quicker.

That kind of metric would not be comparable across cities with different costs of life. Dividing by housing cost is a good normalising factor. You could divide your metric by housing cost, maybe.

If you are earning a million a year you are in the outliers where percentage cost is fairly irrelevant. For people on "normal" salaries it makes more sense to use a percentage.

> percentage of income spent on housing is not a great metric. A better metric is absolute income minus housing costs. / All else being equal, I would gladly earn $1 million per year and spend 75% of it on rent, because that remaining 25% would be a heck of a lot of money.

It makes sense, but that doesn't make it true. Is your argument based on your personal beliefs, or is it based on actual outcomes in the economy?

As someone once pointed out, if 'makes sense' was a reliable indicator of the truth, we would have had accurate physics in 5,000 BC.

> It makes sense, but that doesn't make it true. Is your argument based on your personal beliefs, or is it based on actual outcomes in the economy?

Seems to me it's based on basic arithmetic. Are you arguing that $250,000/year isn't a very comfortable take-home wage?

I'm saying that the currency of fact is evidence, not speculation and analysis. It's an interesting theory, but we need evidence to know whether or not it's true. That's what science and reason are about.

Ironically, the hiking home prices benefits this generation the most as well.

In some alternate reality where everyone's goals and chosen locale are identically that of their parents, yes.

In theory, if your goals and chosen locale are not identical to your parents, you can sell their house for cash and use the cash to buy a house in your chosen locale.

In practice, a large percentage of the population are getting screwed because a.) their parents lost their home in the foreclosure crisis, the bank repossessed it, and it got sold to a private investor b.) their parents had inadequate savings and needed to take out a reverse mortgage, and most of the home equity goes to the bank by the time they die c.) their parents got divorced and their evil stepmother got the house or d.) their parents live in one of the many regions where housing prices are stagnant or declining but the kids need to live in an expensive region to have a job.

I think it is even simpler than that. According to wiki, life expectancy in USA is roughly 80 years. If the children are had at roughly 25-30 years, by the time property is inherited, children are 50-55 - age when they are expected to have grown their own children, not the best age to start a family. Under the same assumptions, grandchildren are 20-30, therefore at a good age to inherit the property. Yet, if we factor in fertility rate of 1.8, that's 3.25 grandchildren on average or 30% stake at the inheritance. More like mortgage deposit, rather than a place to live.

For an average person it is not reasonable to expect to inherit a property during age of settling down when that is most needed.

Your fertility rate math is off - it might be 3.25 grandchildren/grandparent, but each grandchild has 4 grandparents (barring edge-cases like incest or remarriage). If you account for property typically being owned by couples, it's only 2 grandcouples, but this is offset by your spouse having 2 grandcouples as well. As long as fertility rate < 2, wealth actually accumulates during inheritance.

Your comment about timing is right-on though: most couples are expected to have the house & kid before the grandparents die.

Don’t forget people who: - don’t have parents - are estranged from their parents - would never accept anything from their parents, even after death - whose parents never escaped poverty for long enough to buy property

You could have opened with d, man. Clearly the most common case.

You know some families have more than one kid, right?

Most people don't move very far, and never have.

> In nations in the West, an important limiting factor is the ability to get one’s own apartment. That is, the ratio of average male wage to average rent.

The average male wage? Most couples are double-income these days, surely?

> 1958 is when men had the best wage to rent ratio, and that helped create families and have children.

I don't think it is necessarily the current state, but our view of future prospects that may matter more. I wonder if there are yearly studies of people's outlook on employment prospects/etc broken down by age. Having children is a future oriented endeavor. Your current situation absolutely matters, but I think your outlook on future prospects is the driving factor. I suspect it is so for women too. If you think your purchasing power, ability to own a home, etc in the future is diminishing, it would affect both the male and female positions on whether to have or the number of kids to raise.

i wonder how Jim Crow affected these employment and housing markets.

Check out The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein for an extensive treatment of this topic. (His focus is not on Jim Crow per se, but on the entire web of policies used to enforce segregation across the States, thus locking African Americans out of the great boom in housing wealth post-WWII.)

Interesting in places like Hong Kong and Japan it seems to also hold true.

>> which is why 1958 remains the peak year for teenage pregnancy in the USA.

There are plenty more factors impacting teenage pregnancy than the cost of rent. I also hesitate to talk about teenage pregnancy rates in any sort of positive light. There is a very fine line between a 18yo married to her "high school sweetheart" who has a great job, and an unwed 17yo highschool senior who, in 1958 society, had a very rough time. I'd suggest that the later was the more common.

> I'd suggest that the later was the more common.

I doubt that was the case. According to the CDC[1], less than 15% of teenage births were to unmarried teenagers in the 1950s. In 1960, the birth rate for teenagers aged 15-17 was a quarter that of teenagers aged 18-19.

1. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr49/nvsr49_10.pdf

Shotgun marriage. They did not wanted 16 years old to marry to 17 years old sweathearth and have birth as 17 years. Men were supposed to be able to feed familly already at the time of marriage.

"Births" ... not pregnancies. There is a monumental difference. We know about the births because they are vital stats. But for the pregnancies, at best, we know about the reported pregnancies, the girls who went to doctors and those doctors contributed to the stats. That doesn't cover the girls who did not see doctors nor those who, for whatever reason, did not carry the child to term.

>> less than 15% of teenage births were to unmarried teenagers in the 1950s.

And exactly how many of those occurred less than 9 months after the wedding? Being pregnant and unmarried in 1958, even temporarily, was not a happy place from which to start adult life.

That would imply 15-20% of teenagers aged 15-17 having abortions annually. I find that hard to believe.

In 1958. I find that unbelievable, not just hard to believe.

>And exactly how many of those occurred less than 9 months after the wedding? Being pregnant and unmarried in 1958, even temporarily, was not a happy place from which to start adult life.

People survived just fine. Life isn't all rainbows and unicorns. Raising a kid as a young couple who are only together for the kid probably sucked a lot less in 1958 because there was a heck of a lot less economic pressure (and bad finances make everything else worse).

>People survived just fine. Life isn't all rainbows and unicorns. Raising a kid as a young couple who are only together for the kid probably sucked a lot less in 1958.

severely naive and rose tinted.

I didn't say it didn't suck. I said this particular kind of suck sucked less then than it does now.

A couple that is dealing with a kid that was born when they were 16-19 is far less of a burden in 1958 than in 2018 assuming because how society expects them to handle it then vs now and how much of a burden we consider it then vs now.

In 1958 the expectation was that you get married, settle down, raise the kid and pretend to be a normal couple who aren't just together for the kid. Even if you don't really love each other you at least get to raise your kid together and manage your time and money like a normal couple. This is ball and chain to both parents and certainly not ideal but it's a lot easier to do when that's what society expects you to do. Yes, you're settling, yes, you're stuck with someone you probably don't love anymore but that sucks a hell of a lot less when it's something that you're expected to do with some level of success.

In 2018 the expectation is that the couple splits. Raising the kid while apart is a massive handicap on both parents. They're expected to still manage to have careers (which probably involve college), find new partners and generally pursue life like everyone else. With a kid to raise these things are much more difficult and complicated. Even if you make the generous assumption that parents with shared custody cooperate with each other in order to raise the kid the overhead cost (time, money, frustration, pick any metric you want) of separated parents trying to coordinate to raise a kid is much larger than a couple working together. If one parent is completely out of the picture or the couple has shard custody but doesn't want to work together then it's still a bigger drain on both (money for one parent and not getting to raise your kid, everything else for the other). Neither case does the kid any favors.

Basically in 2018 we expect couples who have a kid in high-school to do it the harder way and society's expectation that they do it the hard way makes it even harder on any couple that tries to raise the kid together (contradicting social norms is hard to do because basically nobody around you will support you).

Economics aside, raising a kid with your high-school sweetheart that you no longer love is ball and chain on both parents but it's a smaller one if the kid is born in 1958 than in 2018 because per 1958 norms you're expected to get married and tough it out. Per 1958 norms having a kid in high-school not seen as the end of the world, it's seen as something unfortunate that happens to a non-negligible fraction of people and that people are expected to be able to deal with somewhat successfully.

Sure, you can hair split about the economics of raising kid, opportunities for women to have careers, quantify how bad it is to be married to someone you don't love vs having shared custody vs writing a check every month. The end result of all the hair splitting will just reflect the opinions and cultural norms of whoever doing the splitting.

I'm saying that even if you ignore all that having a kid sucks less in 1958 because how much it actually sucks is determined in mostly part based on how much we think it should suck which is basically determined by the society we live in and in 1958 we didn't think having a kid at 18 sucked that bad as we think it does in 2018 so therefore it sucked less for the people who had to do it in 1958.

edit: it should go without saying that this assumes parent quality is competent across time. Of course you could make either situation look like the obvious winner but comparing good parents to deadbeats.

The Pill came about in 1960, and probably had a large effect in reducing teen pregnancies. Legalizing abortion a large effect as well.

Sex / health education too made big difference.

Did you mean the former?

Keep in mind that there is probably a significant selection effect going on there. In other words, if you don't plan on having children, expensive cities are still an option for you. Whereas if you plan on having children, they are not.

Anecdatum, but:

My wife and I live in an expensive city. It's pretty fun.

Except, we just had a child. She's pretty fun too. In fact, we think we might like another.

She makes all the fun stuff in the city irrelevant (not heading to the bars these days), and the bad stuff in the city pretty horrible.

* She's inhaling poison every morning I walk her to creche.

* If I let her ride a bike on our street she will die.

So, thinking to ourselves "this is crap" we decided "let's have dad get a remote job and buy a cheap place in the country". She hates her job anyway.

Lo and behold, a few days after we said "all right, that's it, we're doing it" she gets two interviews for jobs she'd really like, in her sector (museums and heritage) - In the city (around the corner, in fact).

So, if she gets the job we're staying in the city and not having another kid. If she doesn't we're moving to the country and probably having another kid.

In all this, you'll notice I never said "we could find a place with more room within a reasonable distance from her potential new job" - because it's not really an option. They're quite expensive, and on top of that, banks here (not the US) make it quite challenging to get a mortgage. We've managed to save a reasonable deposit (if we could get a mortgage) but can't quite buy a place in the city for cash. We could get a place in the country for cash, though.

Fuck the job. Do your one kid a favor and have another kid. Siblings are just about the most useful things you can have in life.

I'm conflicted because the carbon footprint of another kid is substantial.

Then again, individual action is utterly meaningless. With ~8billion people it just doesn't matter what I do. Only large-scale action that brings about systemic changes matters. And hey, maybe one of my kids will be the one to help fix it!

Then again, if people viewed 2 as a nominal max then we'd still be on the right path (a bit below replacement rate would be OK generally speaking)

But I already brought one life in to the world when I worry about global collapse and am not sure I want to do that for another.

But siblings are pretty great!

But if I have an only child I can afford a better school for them..

Anyway, still thinking. So is the partner.

Also, "fuck the job" is easy to say except it's not my job, it's the opportunity for my partner to do the thing she's wanted to do her whole life and has worked her ass off for. It's crazy hard to actually build a career in museums and heritage (related... https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16792942) and maybe she shouldn't have to give that up.

Then again, being in an industry where employment is that tenuous sounds like a crappy way to spend life.

FWIW, if you care about the environment, the right move is to have kids. All species expand to fill their ecological niche. If you abstain from having children, their spots will just be taken up by other people's children. We are powerless to influence the number of people, but we can influence the proportion of people who have an environmentalist bent.

I hear you about the career thing. I have sacrificed immensely to be able to afford a family. But now, when I am surrounded by my children, I think about all of the possibilities that lay ahead of them, all the grand adventures they will have and the adversities they will overcome, and I remark to myself, "I made all of this possible".

> FWIW, if you care about the environment, the right move is to have kids.

This couldn't be more wrong. Every new life is another body consuming resources.

> All species expand to fill their ecological niche.

This doesn't apply to humans. Unlike other animals, we've mastered agriculture and can produce our own food. But there are still non-renewable resources that we're constantly consuming and will eventually run out of, but we'll continue to reproduce.

> If you abstain from having children, their spots will just be taken up by other people's children.

This implies the inverse, that if I choose to have children, someone else will react by choosing not to. If I choose not to, that won't cause someone else to have more to "take up my spot". There will still be fewer children.

> We are powerless to influence the number of people

On an individual scale, yes. My choice to not have children has no significant impact on the population. But lots of people choosing to not have children does. Your argument is similar to the one made by people who don't vote because they think their one vote won't change the outcome of the election.

> but we can influence the proportion of people who have an environmentalist bent.

This part is at least true.

The thing is that, after you decide to not have kids, time keeps up it's inexorable march. The earth has a carrying capacity for humans. We haven't hit it yet. But we will. This is the one absolute of life: species expand in population until there's no more niche left to occupy.

So after you decide not to have children, other people will have children. Eventually, their descendents will take up the space in the earth's carrying capacity that your descendants would have taken up. There is nothing you can do to stop this. So the best strategy is to change the proportion of people who have an environmentalist bent. Children are an effective way to accomplish that.

Umm... at the risk of being dramatic..

In addition to worrying about the carbon footprint of another kid, I have a much bigger concern that

* We will do nothing regarding climate change (seems likely)

* The predictions for Business as Usual will have been too conservative (seems likely given that the Arctic is melting well ahead of schedule, and who knows how clathrates pan out)

* Temps rise by a good 8C or so in the next 8 decades

* My child, or their children, will die horribly in a new global Holodomor as our resource chains (webs, really) collapse and the world's civilizations implode.

Anyway, I already had one. But I have a deep, pervasive dread that I have doomed them to the above. However, I also might be wrong! Maybe it just gets a bit warmer and they can open a nice winery in Sweden and it's all fine.

Let your kids worry about that. I know I, personally, would rather be alive and facing catastrophe than not be alive. And history is filled with examples of people who persevered through all kinds of calamity. We're a resourceful bunch. And it'll be easier for your children to face the future together than for your child to face it alone.

Just checking in to say I sympathize. I don't have any kids yet, and was thinking about having none (not having a kid is as effective as being vegan and biking to work for the rest of your life...). But I'm worried about how my life would look with and without kids and how hard it would probably be to convince my future spouse to not have kids, etc. And in light of that I start feeling helpless and maybe it's worth just having a kid and enjoying my life because it's not my fault that so many people are fucking up the environment, driving trucks on hour long commutes, and having 5 kids. ¯\_(⊙︿⊙)_/¯

Population stability is probably the metric to optimize for if you care about sustainability. Rapidly growing or shrinking populations cause problems.

Given how much the West flirts with the replacement rate, I think you should do whatever you feel like doing.

I hope to have a large family for this reason.

I dont know if I'll have the time to give kids my full attention.

I found my brother was/is the reason I'm a nerd. Sure my dad was a database manager, but I spend hours daily with my brother gaming. I dont even think I wanted to spend a half hour with my 'boring' dad.

When thinking about having children and about the level of care and attention you’ll be able to give them, I think it’s useful to have the right comparison in mind. If you’re considering having another child, that child’s choices are not between your limited time and attention on the one hand and, on the other, parents who can shower them with time and attention. Instead, the alternative to your limited time and attention is never getting to be alive.

When you frame things that way, the answer for parents who are considering another child is pretty much always to give the child the gift of life. In the developed world, at least.

Life isn't automatically good!!! Bad parenting can, and does, create lives that are arguably better to have never existed.

I think it’s pretty patronizing to make this choice for other people. IMO, there’s only one person whose moral right it is to decide whether a life is worthwhile. And that’s the person whose life it is.

No there's not, because one lifeform's existed can effect others. Additionally when debating if life should come to be, the lifeform in question can't have an opinion until after the fact.

Think about the kind of life you think would have been better off not existing. Surely there are people alive whose life fits your criteria. Now imagine telling one of these people that it would have been better if they never existed.

Probably they'll tell you where you can stick your notions.

I'm not suggesting someone goes and tells them, that would just cause more pain. I'm suggesting we stop that life from existing in the first place.

If you have other reasons for not wanting a life to exist, that’s another matter. But if your only reason is that, in your estimation, that person would have a life not worth living, that seems awfully presumptuous. Life is optional. Let them decide if they want to be alive.

"is never getting to be alive."

I suppose we may differ on this but I don't really view that as a negative. I don't think there's a pool of "potential people" from which we draw when making a new person. An infinite number of beings don't exist, and won't. I actually would love to see more work on the nature of consciousness and the self, and what exactly gives a new foetus or baby its awareness of the fact that it exists.

And yet I'm not entirely consistent internally because even though "I want someone to hang out with when I'm old" is part of the reason kids sound fun, most of it is "bringing a new being capable of experience joy into the universe", so I guess I sort of agree, in a roundabout sense.

>the alternative to your limited time and attention is never getting to be alive.

Eh, if anyone should have kids, it should be the financially well off and educated people.

Remember that your logic isnt going to stop impoverished people from having 4 kids and welfare.

Yeah, you and I might not want impoverished people from having kids that they can't afford (since guilt will compel us to step in and assist). But I would bet that 99 out of 100 people who grew up in the worst kind of poverty would happily do so again rather than never have existed. So, from the child's point of view it's a good tradeoff.

I'm the older brother in my family and what the hell are you talking about!?

Someone once told me: "The best gift you can give to an only child is a sibling. Shows them they aren't the center of the world."

You can do that via good parenting too. The myth of the self absorbed only child is just that, a myth.

My cousin is an only child and he turned out great and had a great childhood. I kinda envy the amount of family time and adventures they were able to go on. Part of it might be family culture, but seems like with one kid you can "do" a lot more, where as with 3 kids, doing things were often frustrating endeavors and just "maintaining" was more the norm.

This is true. But I was thinking more about just getting through life. Governments and pension systems come and go. But as long as you have living siblings, you’ve got pretty damn good insurance against all the stuff that goes wrong in life.

As someone with 4 siblings I'm going to have to disagree with this. Siblings aren't inherently good things to have in life. I know plenty of only children who have never wanted a sibling and plenty of folk who are largely indifferent to their siblings. It depends massively on the personality of the people involved.

> I know plenty of only children who have never wanted a sibling and plenty of folk who are largely indifferent to their siblings.

Then there are siblings who are a literal burden on their families. Some people just use others and walk all over everyone. Someone in my extended family tried to burglarize the home of someone else in the family. That’s not someone I want in my family.

That too. I was more suggesting that some of us aren't particularly close with our family or people people. That and you can not particularly like someone without them being horrible, sometimes personalities just clash or are indifferent to each other.

If you think that life insurance, disability insurance, and a social safety net are good things, then you think that siblings are a good thing.

I don't expect my siblings to be any of those for me. It's incredibly unfair to put those expectations on family.

Yeah, nobody wants to burden other people with dependence. But shit happens. The history of our species is basically one conflagration after another. If I were to die with dependent children–which, up until about 80 years ago was a common occurrence—I know that my siblings would help care for my children. Or even if I just fell ill and needed assistance, my siblings would be there as a safety net.

And it goes both ways: I would do the same for them.

Family are the people who, when you need help, they have to try to give it.

Just had this with my brother. He's got a fairly expensive illness. I asked if he needed help. It never even occurred to him to ask - he's pretty independent. But if he has to have help, I'll try to help.

Considering the ratio of career gains that go to those working in a few expensive cities, even if this is largely selection effects, I'm not sure this paints a very rosy picture of the society we're creating.

I'm reminded of how few heads of EU states are parents


This stage of the demographic transition is a huge problem, IMO. The more I think about it, the more it seems like a ratchet (as in, it only moves in one direction):

Basically, two incomes are useful, so both people in a relationship pursue careers. Now they have more money to compete on the housing market. This seems like a good move, so others follow suit. At first this is largely a win for people who pursue this route. But, as more people do this, it becomes necessary in order to compete for real estate in good neighborhoods.

Now there is an advantage to be had by putting off having a family even longer, or having even less children. So people do this. But as more and more people follow suit, the advantage evaporates. And so on and so forth until you have demographic implosion.

For the life of me, I can’t see a way out of this in the short term. Maybe a wholesale transition to remote work?

Immigration will offset the demographic implosion, at least if current trends continue. But speaking as someone who studied climate science, a temporary population reduction can only be a good thing for long-term human survival. We're above the carrying capacity of Earth for humans, and though we've done a lot of tricks to expand capacity, we're currently putting a large swath of the biosphere in danger.

If there are less people, then pressure for good neighborhoods goes down, and we'll reach an equilibrium. I think it only seems like a ratchet because we're in the middle of a downturn after a 5000 year run of exponential growth.

Doesn't mean it doesn't suck to live in this time in terms of housing -- but in other terms, life is pretty outstanding. The two income thing is mostly new, but then compare the amount of time that medieval women spent on childcare and providing clothing. It's so much better now that they're not expected to spend every spare moment at the spinning wheel.

> We're above the carrying capacity of Earth for humans, and though we've done a lot of tricks to expand capacity, we're currently putting a large swath of the biosphere in danger.

Given the vast differences in climate impact between different populations and consumption habits, this doesn't seem to be the case.

Perhaps a better way of phrasing it would be "We're above the carrying capacity of Earth for Rich Americans".

The issue is that the U.S. isn't overpopulated. India, China are tho.

Worth remembering that the average person in the US emits far more than the average person in India or China.

I don't think most people have a problem with having a smaller population in general, they have a problem with the shift in the age distribution. Having less people is fine, having few young people who have to care for a general aging population is not.

What is the carrying capacity of earth for Humans? I recall in the 70s there was hype about the “Population Bomb” but those fears were never borne out.

As well, what makes you think we will reach an equilibrium for good neighborhoods? Some housing will be abandoned, causing blight; blight causes good neighborhoods to become less desirable, and they spiral down from there.

Detroit is a great example of what happens when neighborhoods lose people.

It's really hard to say what the carrying capacity is, because unlike other species, humans keep modifying their environment. Without clothing, the answer is probably a few million. Without agriculture, the number is south of half a billion. With mechanized agriculture, large-scale land use changes, and artificial fertilizer, we can probably still double our current population. But at the cost of stressing the rest of the environment. I'd guess the "safe" level is somewhere in the low billions, i.e. 1-5 billion.

I was mainly talking about the SF case, where lower global population should make it more affordable rather than causing things to be abandoned. This is what is playing out in Tokyo, which is still growing while the countryside is abandoned. As for the small towns, it sucks, but dying small towns has been a thing for quite a while now as agriculture has become more mechanized. Detroit's kind of the odd man out being a depopulating metropolis, so I'd actually argue that it's a terrible example, at least for the next 100 years.

On a global scale, SF is tiny. Fewer than 1m people in a state of 44m, a country of 350m, and a world of 7,000m.

The impact of global population on SF is and will be negligible.

I'm not getting your point. The thing about global trends is that they are global, which means that they'll apply to all of the large cities. Some large cities might have other trends that might hide the signal, like falling into the ocean, but the point is the global mass migration.

Yes, we seem to have gone from women not having the choice to work to women not having the choice to not work.

This is false.

There are 500$/mo rents everywhere and food costs are the lowest in history.

If you dont care to keep up with the Joneses and have minimum wage people cook you food, you can easily live off 1 low-income salary.

...if you leave the big city? There are not $500/mo rents in many popular places. But sure, Des Moines, Pocatello, you can live like that. And why not - at that salary, you sure aren't going to the Bolshoi Ballet any time soon.

I can't find a $500/month 2-bedroom apartment for rent in Des Moines (https://www.padmapper.com/apartments/des-moines-ia/2-beds/pr...).

The cheapest I see is $625, which is 25% more than $500/month.

Yup. It widens the income gap significantly. The problem with anything that raises average income, is that people without average income are worse of.

If families have at most 1 earner, then the worse case scenario is to have 0 earners, being one down. If most families have 2 though, when you fall to 0, you're much, much worse off compared to the norm.

People with kids vs people without. People with college degrees in high demand profession vs people without. Basically, every time we push people in drove toward a more efficient "lifestyle", the worse off people who don't are.

There's a book somewhat related to this idea called The Two Income Trap. I haven't read it yet, but recently read a good book review of it[0] that discusses the extra competition created by two-income households and tries to vet the book's evidence. It also discusses the related problem that comes from treating "good school districts" as a positional good, causing a negative externality of over-competition and consumption beyond the intrinsic economic benefit of that good.

[0] http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/06/28/book-review-the-two-inc...

It’s a great book, written by (now Senator) Elizabeth Warren (from the great state of Massachusetts).

Solution: create a surplus of homes. That will detach price from income. Nothing else will work. (Note: we did this with food and it successfully kept prices low)

Not necessarily. The least affordable housing markets tend to be bigger cities. Growing the cities further will not necessarily make housing in those cities more affordable. There's a positive feedback loop between cities being bigger being more desirable.

Cheap public transit is all.

In case of food, it comes to your nearest super market. So its not just overproduction of food, its also supply chain optimization.

You're spot on about the basic underlying mechanic. A mechanic like that can be found directly causing or partially contributing to almost all the problems we face today.

Obligatory link going deep into this: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/07/30/meditations-on-moloch/.

Sane zoning laws would be much easier and do a lot more to ease the burden on people (I currently live in an “OMG no high rises! Won’t someone think of the neighborhood character!?” city and the rent is ridiculous). We just have to have the political will to change them, which unfortunately means angering very powerful monied interests, including Betty and Edgar who really love their now-valued-at-$500,000 house next to downtown.

This is bang on. Looking at the graph look where Harris County (Houston) and Dallas are.

If the graphs were plotted with increase in population against the change in fertility then those places would be outliers.

Texas zoning and tax on houses work.

The funny thing about housing prices is that a state in the US has handled house prices so well with an economy that is doing well but Texas is often ignored in these discussions.

Texas has pretty restrictive laws about parking minimums. It would be illegal to build a pleasant neighborhood (for my definition of pleasant) in Texas.

Also, negative externalities of Texas' built environment (lung disease, cancer, potentially more autism near motorways(still early stages of research) dead people on roads, inability to travel or perform basic tasks for those who can't or prefer not to drive, being impoverished by your automobile, and the potential collapse of global civilization due to climate change) are not priced in, so often the neighbors or the rest of the world are paying for those houses.

Thousands of acres with mcmansions in gated HOAs and no walkability sounds terrible.

> Texas zoning and tax on houses work.

Texas zoning also paved over all the marsh land that would've kept the city from flooding.

I'm living in California and I have this idea for a zoning law: if a residential plot of land sells for more than $X million per acre, it is automatically up zoned to higher density. That way if the market says a location is really valuable more people get to live there.

I've theory-crafted other potential policies like "require any increase in office build density to be matched by increased residential density". That seems more potentially game-able than simply increasing density of properties the market had determined are valuable.

There is a Brazilian show on Netflix, 3%, that explores (caution: spoiler for Season 1) a sterile elite ruling over a dystopia.

Anecdotal, but I put off dating altogether when my salary was low and home prices were skyrocketing in my home town (San Diego). I left San Diego altogether two years ago, but I'm still suffering (perhaps too drastic of a word) from the affects of not even being in a relationship for over half a decade. Meaning, being with women used to come naturally to me, now it's generally awkward after being single for so long.

Yeah when I see stuff like this I'm reminded of this relevant XKCD: https://xkcd.com/925/

There's correlation here, but likely not causation.

The real underlying cause in the drop in birth rates is an increase in working hours, an increase in commuting times, an increase in college tuition and health care costs, and also an increase in divorce rates.

These days, even getting married is an expensive financial arrangement. Having kids is just another layer on that.

Housing prices have increased because of cheap loans and supply-restrictive regulations.

How do you square that with somewhere like Denmark with it's equally abysmal yet they have way less working hours and a large social safety net?

Denmark is actually having a baby boom right now. It's still a low absolute birth rate, but it's been higher for the last couple years.

Immigrants included ?

I've visited Denmark before as an American :) It's a pretty nice place-- sure there are pretty generous payments to most members of society, but there is still some petty crime and different social classes and lack of major mobility.

I am not precisely sure if they have less working hours. I mean, anecdotally, I don't know any Danes who have 10 minute commutes working 4 days a week, 6 hours a day or something like that, and making $7,000 post tax per month. Like, that sounds mythical in America and in Denmark.

I would just equate Denmark's birthrate either to cultural differences (white birth rates are lower than arab, latino, african etc), or to the same pressures that American workers have-- the Danish pressures are just slightly less extreme.

The average distance from home to work for a Dane i ~21km (13 miles). Most Danes have a regulated average work week of 37 hours (unless otherwise is specified in the contract), and we have strong unions.

> ure there are pretty generous payments to most members of society, but there is still some petty crime and different social classes and lack of major mobility.

By most metrics, Denmark has one of the largest degrees of social mobility in the world. The US usually comes out worst or second-worst in the developed world (the UK is gaining on it lately).

the rent, salary, taxation, net worth and expectancy data for denmark's 5 million danes is comporable to the AVERAGE american city/suburban resident of similar background

in the USA we just have 100 million people that are literally in debt up to their eyeballs and die horrible unhealthy deaths every year.

im not saying this system is justified, im saying it skews our statistics. the US is like south africa-- a deliberately created class distinction between the rich and the poor which heavily skews along racial lines, but not always.

>im not saying this system is justified, im saying it skews our statistics. the US is like south africa-- a deliberately created class distinction between the rich and the poor which heavily skews along racial lines, but not always.

Well, at least we're openly admitting the US is a caste society by design now.

So, wait, are you saying "the US doesn't have a social mobility problem, except for the large social mobility problem it has"? I don't really follow.

The US absolutely, 100% has a social mobility problem. This social mobility problem is particularly prevalent among the bottom 33% of income earners/wealth owners in US society (aka +100m truly poor people).

However, when you control for this group of people (aka remove them from being counted), the US middle class is basically the same as the Danish middle class, in terms of mobility, income, life expectancy and so on.

If I remember correctly, Denmark started teaching people about having children along with pregnancy prevention. Simply making sure people knew things led to increased birth rates.

Odd that you can see a correlation but claim no causation and then list nearly half a dozen reasons why birth rates a falling. Is it possible that you could add rising house costs to your list and that, as with list things, a number of factors fees into falling birth rates?

There is likely some degree of causation, though it would be difficult to measure.

As an anecdote, almost everyone I know moves to a less expensive area and buys a larger house when they start a family. Live downtown, have babies, move to the 'burbs. My parents did it, and I will probably do it too.

This type of situation muddies the data because we are contributing the trend but the housing price isn't changing whether we have babies. It only changes where we have babies. It's unclear whether the data shows that housing prices affect the brith rate or whether people just move to cheaper neighbourhoods when they want to have babies.

There are just cultural changes. When I was young it was expected that if you could have kids then you would. You needed them especially as you got old. Today this is not a view shared by all, more and more people are making their own decisions about having kids.

In my family it seems that each generation is having less and less kids. My great grandparents had a 7-10, my grandparents had 5, my parents had 2, I had 1.

I think the world has enough people, so for me one kid was plenty.

Agreed. There's also been a strong link between birth rates and education (especially for women). And education leads to strong knowledge based economies leads to higher home prices... Or, if you like, places with high housing prices require higher earners to pay the rent/mortgage, who tend to have higher education levels and thus fewer kids.

Maybe it that people want to do different things with their lives and have more choices available.

I even see higher divorce rates as a positive thing in some ways. 50 years ago it may not have been a valid choice for a woman to leave an abusive husband and set up on her own. Now they have a lot more choice in that regard.

There's likely not causation with any individual factor, because it's a multivariable model. There are probably a dozen factors that contribute to the birth rate, including those you mentioned and probably many others.

Since when you need to be married to have kids? Sounds like correlation, but likely not causation.

Well if a father wants to have unassailable parental rights over his children, he still ought to be married. If he's okay being beholden to the mother's whims, then there's no need for marriage.

The better question is since when can you have kids without being married? Until quite recently you were ostracized if you had kids out of wedlock and illegitimate children had fewer rights.

The answer to your question is: Since a few million years. Nevertheless, I understand your point.

My point was more along the lines of criticizing 'correlation vs. cause' and providing equally weak arguments.

What I believe is that there are multiple factors at work here. So higher home prices are probably one reason why people are deciding against children, but most certainly not the only one. And 'deciding against children' doesn't mean they will never have any children, maybe they just wait a few more years before they get the first and in the end there will be one less for some couples.

Getting married is expensive? How so?

The legal fees themselves aren't very expensive. If you can resist the societal pressures to have a large and extravagant wedding with many guests, then even the wedding itself isn't particularly expensive.

The main cost of getting married is getting divorced. Legal fees add up a lot here, and the division of assets is costly.

Now, you could argue your marriage won't end in divorce, but 60% of marriages in the US do.

Perhaps worth noting: that "60% of marriages end in divorce" number is quirky when you pull back the skin.

60% of marriages end in divorce, but most people who marry do not get divorced from their first marriage. The 60% number is bumped out due to the segment of the population that get married 3 or 4 times.

Interesting, thank you :) I'm still seeing divorce rates of 30-40% for first marriages, depending on generation.

Anecdotally, I know a lot of people who are either divorced in their 30s, or still unmarried in their 30s. Considering the difficulties a woman has conceiving beyond their mid 30s, I think the explanation is here in our faces.

My grandma had 5 kids and was married at 19.

> My grandma had 5 kids and was married at 19.

Funny that you've mentioned correlation and no causation, and then brought this up. How old was your grandma when she had her first kid?

That division of assets is cheaper if you married someone who earns as much as you.

Getting married in a traditional way is cheap, but most people blow off tradition to get some fancy pinterest barn, with fancy pinterest lights, with some fancy pinterest minister, some fancy pinterest vows, and fancy pinterest invitations. We paid $80 for a marriage license. The church was free. The ceremony was free. The celebrant was free. The wedding was free. We also got married in the most beautiful church in San Francisco (in my opinion at least)

We were going to use the church hall for the reception, but my parents wanted us to get another reception venue. That would have been free. A traditional cake and punch reception with some music would have set us back maybe $300, but even that could have been foregone. My wife's parents didn't do any of that. Just got married the old-fashioned way.

I am really happy for you, and wish you the best in your marriage :)

Let's not mention the taxes for getting married w/out children. Unless you have dependents (children) or one income (which makes one spouse the other spouse's dependent), getting married as a DINC (Dual Income, No Children) is a fiscal disaster in the US right now.

Speaking for the UK, it is certainly the case that couples put off having children until they've bought their own home, and the shameful reason for this is that renters have no security of tenure here. Unless you're in state subsided social housing you live with the permanent threat of being turfed out of your home at only two months notice, for no better reason than the landlord wants to do something else with it. Finding a new home and organizing a move is difficult and unsettling enough for a young working couple, but with children involved its on another level, not least because it could well mean a change of school, or result in siblings in different schools.

Considering generations in the past, and still in a lot of poor countries have raised multiple children in the smallest of spaces, I just don't believe there is a causative relation.

Much more plausible to me is the association to women's education, causing women to delay their first pregnancy and opt out of further children. Also there seems to be an association between general misery or fatality and birth rates.

While it is of course possible to raise a lot of children in a tiny space, it is not something you necessarily want to do. Especially if no-one in your environment is doing it.

It is not really a happy life if you have to spend your evenings in utter silence because there is a baby or a toddler sleeping in the same room two meters away.

All these arguments assume rational arguments, especially economical, are the most important factors in deciding to make children.

I believe that irrational factors are easily overlooked but predominant. There is a certain biological drive to raise children, stronger in some people compared to others. And various factors modulate this drive, again unconsciously.

Most of the time, in free societies at least, it is the woman who makes most of the decision. If she really wants to have a child, nothing and nobody can stop her, short of a reproductive problem.


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