Blue states don't build
The cost of stasis: population loss, homelessness, and reliance on fossil fuels.
Here’s some bad news for the Democratic Party:
This map shows the number of seats each state is forecast to gain or lose in the House of Representatives by 2030. As you can see, the states losing seats are pretty much all blue states, while the states gaining seats are pretty much all red states.
This is because House seats are reapportioned based on population changes. Blue states are losing seats because they are losing people relative to the U.S. average, while red states are gaining people relative to the average. Here, for example, are the population changes in California and New York (blue states) vs. Texas and Florida (red states) over the past two decades:
Some of this is due to differences in state fertility rates — the Plains states and parts of the South tend to have more kids — but the main driver is simply migration. Americans are moving from blue states to red states:
Why is this happening? It’s obviously not just about the weather, given the moves away from sunny California and into frigid Idaho and Montana. Conservatives will tend to blame the trends on high taxes and progressive social policies in the blue states. But housing costs are far more important, financially, than taxes for most of the people who move from place to place.
Blue states like California and New York have high housing costs in part because these states tend to house “superstar” industry clusters like Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and Wall Street. These clusters draw in high-earning knowledge workers and price out lower-income and middle-income people. But California is losing population at all income levels, with high earners actually more likely to leave. And more importantly, if they wanted, blue states could just build more houses for the lower-income and middle-income people, canceling out the effect of increased demand.
They don’t. With the exception of Washington state (which, you’ll notice, is not forecast to lose any Congressional seats!), blue states tend to be much more restrictive in terms of how much housing they build:
I’m not going to rehash the evidence that allowing more housing supply holds down housing costs. It does. California and New York are driving people out of the state by refusing to build enough housing, while Texas and Florida are welcoming new people with new cheap houses.
In fact, blue states’ failure to allow development is a pervasive feature of their political cultures. Housing scarcity doesn’t just cause population loss — it’s also the primary cause of the wave of homelessness that has swamped California and New York. Progressives’ professed concern for the unhoused is entirely undone by their refusal to allow the creation of new homes near where they live. Nor is housing the only thing that blue states fail to build — anti-development politics is preventing blue states from adopting solar and wind, while red states power ahead. And red states’ willingness to build new factories means that progressive industrial policy is actually benefitting them more.
If blue states are going to thrive in the 21st century, they need to relearn how to build, build, build.