77 Comments

1. Canada has a great provincial nomination system for immigration. It can work here.

2. Vance is being unserious and Noah should stop wasting time on his bullshit.

3. Ask Vance about building more housing and watch how he flips into full NIMBY mode.

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May 26, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

All great points. Canada’s immigration system is also much more skills-based, so the “quality” of immigrants will be even higher and more advantageous for flatlining/declining areas.

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Offer US visas to all immigrants who are successfully admitted to Canada. (I don't have a specific goal with this policy beyond annoying Canada.)

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The obvious thing to do is have a program that incentivizes migrants moving to Detroit and Cleveland and St. Louis. Or in the alternative for Americans have a no interest mortgage for single family homes under $150k. In those cities $150k would get one a nice house and the municipalities can even have incentives like no property taxes for 2 years. So the buyer couldn’t rent out the house for several years and could only sell it after 5 years…that would reduce inflation by putting downward pressure on home prices AND get people away from DFW and Tampa and Phoenix which would then get more asylum seekers to Cleveland to serve the new residents. If you check out the inflation by region numbers it’s clearly worse in the cities people herded to the last several years.

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Why is it "obvious" that we should greenlight the flow of human resources to struggling metros? I can think of reasons why there may be some pluses, sure, and I like the idea of allowing states to directly recruit would-be immigrants. But I can also think of some negatives of trying to direct immigration inflows into select, less dynamic cities (Do you think a Taiwanese PhD in software engineering is going to opt for Detroit over Singapore or Calgary or Melbourne or Dublin?). The days when the US doesn't face serious competition for global talent are long gone.

Far better just to, you know, make it legal for builders to meet housing demand wherever that demand can be found!

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Highlighting multiple (occasionally foul-mouthed) attacks on the motivations of the author expressed here:

- "Noah et al are deliberately obscuring...",

- "...being insanely disingenuous",

- (do what I think is the more important action) "Otherwise you're (once again) masturbating over your own cleverness"

If you have logical rebuttals to share, which it seems you do, the ad hominem and attacks on the motivations of the author (which you seem peculiarly certain of knowing) rather than his logic only detract from the effectiveness of your arguments.

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Don't feed the trolls. The first bit of Internet wisdom I learned on Usenet 35 years ago and still just as useful today.

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May 27, 2023·edited May 27, 2023

Noah et al are deliberately obscuring the fact that "migration creates as many jobs as they cost on the national scale" thing might not apply on the local scale. If you have a fuckton of rich people move to a community, driving prices up, the people who're needed to service those rich people won't be able to afford to live there and you'll end up with the worse of both worlds.

(Also, the locals might be a little bit peeved that the only way they can make ends meet is to become some rich douchebag's barista, since THOSE are the jobs that Noah's talking about migration generating: low-paying, low-skill service jobs.)

And, no, the software engineer isn't going to go to Detroit. The pay and lifestyle cut that'd come from moving to a place like that would more than outweigh the benefits. What Noah is being insanely disingenuous about is that you really do need to live in certain cities in order to exploit your human capital, which means software developers go to Silicon Valley because that's where they can actually make money. Yes, landlords will capture a big chunk of that, but it's better than working in a bodega in Detroit.

Remote work was helping with that, but too many douchebags insisted that everybody needed to go back to the office and cough plague at each other because of "innovation" and "collaboration". Including Noah, last I checked.

So, Noah, if you want to actually make this happen, dedicate yourself to stamping out return-to-office shit. Otherwise you're just (once again) masturbating over your own cleverness.

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I’m talking more about the asylum seekers that are desperate to begin new lives in America. What I would really prefer we do is normalize relations with Cuba and have them return property to exiles and just fire hose dollars on that economy if they take several million asylum seekers. Cuba should change its name to “Deferred Maintenance” or “Underperforming Assets”. Cuba could take millions of Spanish speaking asylum seekers if we could convince the Communists to end the revolution and hold democratic elections.

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The big problem is that immigrants don't want to go to declining Midwestern Rust Belt areas for the same reason native-borns don't want to go there: bleak job prospects.

They'll go if there's a well established chain of immigration, like Arabs in southeast Michigan. Because of the area's decline, they've become more visible, but Arab roots in the Detroit area go back to the 19th century before the rise of the automotive industry.

Sure, housing is cheap but the household income to support paying for real estate and its taxes is hard to come by. Often, it's tough to find a BA+ level job outside of government or healthcare.

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May 27, 2023·edited May 27, 2023

1. Canada has an infinitely worse housing situation than the United States.

2. Suggesting immigrants should all move to rural Kentucky shows that Noah ain't serious either.

3. YIMBY shit ain't fixing this when theoretically-affordable older housing stock is getting constantly demolished for new luxury development. You can't have housing fall in cost as it gets older if the housing is getting torn apart and rebuilt even few decades. If you want to fix this shit, bring back SROs.

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It's funny to talk about "heartland visa" as if the coastal states didnt have large semi-rural and rural areas that face exactly the same kinds of problems as Ohio does. There is a funny misconception that everyone on the coast lives in the big cities or their immediate suburbs - probably no more true than everyone in Georgia lives in Atlanta.

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May 26, 2023Liked by Noah Smith

"The pattern was especially noticeable, and started earlier, in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago." Well I don't think any of these cities are going to vote for Trump.

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The far right will blame every problem on immigration.

They won't talk about lack of public housing, too strict zoning, property speculation, lack of frequent and reliable public transport, and the wasteful suburban sprawl model.

Obviously, each area in the US is different. For instance, in New York there is lack of housing and property speculation. If you look at cities like Singapore, Tokyo or Berlin, there are different models to learn from.

But immigration is certainly not the issue.

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It's funny and sad that his reaction to high housing prices is "Literally just scapegoat immigrants".

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I have no idea who this Vance guy is as I am not American, but it’s a reasonable question and Noah gave a great answer.

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He wrote a very high-profile book several years ago called “Hillbilly Elegy” that seemed like a thoughtful take on the decline of the white working class. Then he got into politics and leaned hard into culture war.

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There was a lower-profile author named Joe Bageant who covered the same genre but treated his subjects with far more humanity and eschewed becoming a pop sociology darling.

His essays are at https://www.joebageant.org/. His books are "Deer Hunting With Jesus", which runs circles around "Hillbilly Elegy", "Rainbow Pie" and an anthology "Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball."

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"One way to do this is with place-based visas, which encourage immigrants to move to the places where the local economy could use the biggest boost."

...The same places in America where employment has gone to shit and where there are serious drug issues. Where immigrants are least likely to be welcomed and safe. LMAO. You go first, Noah.

Housing is costly in the places where the jobs are, as rentiers use the scarcity of land to capture the increased salaries and wages being paid in those places. Remote work could have helped a lot, but wealthy douchebags (much like Noah) keep saying that getting quarterly Omicron infections is no big deal and that everybody should go back to the office, bleating about "innovation!" and "collaboration!" to prop up their sagging commercial real estate portfolios.

So, no, Noah. They aren't moving to fucking Nebraska. And you're a moron for suggesting that they should.

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Endless ad hominem here.

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Your stats and conclusions are so different from what I see from other reliable sources that I am going to have to do some more research before I say anything more.

"The typical American renter is now rent-burdened — meaning that 30 percent of the median U.S. income is required to pay the average rent, according to a new report from Moody’s Analytics."

https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/25/realestate/rent-burdened-american-households.html

See graph 2 here (its kind of old but contradicts your graph quite a bit)

https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2018/04/american-families-face-a-growing-rent-burden

Maybe this is all due to more space per person. It's possible that more households are rent burdened while the median household is doing fine. Let's dig into this more.

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May 27, 2023·edited May 27, 2023

He's juking the stats by saying "oh but actually they have more square footage now!" It's one step away from Fox News saying "poor people have fridges so are they REALLY poor?!?"

Uh, yeah. Because Single Room Occupancy housing got absolutely fucking demolished over the last few decades, so people have to choose between either having roommates, living at home, or paying wayyy more for housing.

That helps explain the household formation thing, too. A bunch of roommates are still technically one "household". Noah's a rich kid so his parents probably paid for his apartment, but everybody else knows damn well about dealing with "households" of 4-6 unrelated people.

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When you're out here low-quality trolling on quality commentary, you are detracting from actual rational dialogue.

I've seen you post at least four comments on this thread, each of which includes ad hominem, foul language, and childish insults, including "No, moron", "you're a moron", "Noah's a rich kid" (implication: therefore his points are invalid / false), "douchebags", and "masturbating over (his) own cleverness".

How does any of that add substance to a rational argument?

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May 29, 2023·edited May 30, 2023

I found something close to what I was looking for in the Fed Series:

"Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Rent of Primary Residence in U.S. City Average/Income Before Taxes: Wages and Salaries by Quintiles of Income Before Taxes: Lowest 20 Percent (1st to 20th Percentile)"

Incomes outpaced rents until 2007 but since then rents have gone up twice as fast as income for the bottom quartile since 2007 and are now higher than any time in the series, which goes back to 1985.

This is primarily driven by income going down for the bottom quartile.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CXU900000LB0102M#0

If you want to reproduce this, go to that graph, use the edit graph function, add the "Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Rent of Primary Residence in U.S. City Average/Income Before Taxes": and divide b/a for the result.

This isn't really the data I am interested in, which should be income after taxes and transfer per decile over time, which I cannot find a source for.

I have some other data in the "Mean Income Received by by Each Fifth and Top 5 Percent of Households", which I will present in graphical form if there is interest, but it tells a similar story.

So in conclusion, median incomes have kept up with rents but for the bottom two deciles and the bottom decile in particular, rent inflation has outpaced income growth. What does this have to do with immigration? It would be reasonable to argue that low skilled immigration compete with native workers for low skilled jobs, keeping incomes low for that quintile and compete with low income workers for housing. What we really need is a Case Shiller type of value for rents.

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Reforming immigration, attracting more "high value" immigrants and deterring lower value/negative value immigrants would be a good thing. Reforming land use/building code restrictions on urban real estate development would be a good thing. I'm dubious about the value of linking the two.

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Canadian immigration policy is exactly what you’re proposing and the results seem great (although there’s some caveats).

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Yes, although because the US is a more attractive destination, our system should work even better. And Canada is still a bit restrictive. I know of a foreign born Canadian Ph D with a foreign born wife and it has not been very easy for them to navigate. Of course that his is a Canadian PhD and not a US PhD is because of the less restrictive Canadian system.

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The problem is the "high value" paradox.

In the aggregate, caregivers, nannies and cab drivers are low-value jobs. But *your* caregiver, nanny and cab driver is a high-value job.

If you do get wealthy, or if you *want to get wealthy*, wealth will inevitably create demand for these low-value jobs.

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My merit based system has room for low skill jobs as well, but the focus is on recruitment of talent.

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Canada has a similar system, and it had to bend to the reality that most OECD nations are also throwing out their lines to fish talent, like computer programmers, physicians, engineers and PhD-level researchers. It's very competitive, and the Trump era restrictions sent talent to other countries.

Canada realized that there's a demand for low-skill work or semi-skilled work, and the talent visa class often wants to bring immediate and extended family members over to their new homelands to fill these jobs. A PhD might have an in-law or a cousin who isn't high achieving but willing to take on drudgery.

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Another reason why there is no rise in rents with more immigrants is that the numbers seem to assume a 1 for 1 tradeoff - one immigrant takes the rental place of one citizen. When much more likely the house/apartment that used to house 2-3 people, with immigrants will house 5-10. Saves money to send back home, may all work in same place, gives a sense of home etc..

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If you're just measuring the square footage of a household, instead of how many people LIVE in that square footage, you're frankly taking the piss.

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Good point, I’ve observed this in many neighborhoods where I’ve lived.

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Thank you for this great piece of writing Noah!

In Australia (where I am living now), currently there is the same problem: high immigration and a rental crisis in large cities (I remembered that the rental vacancy rate in Adelaide or Brisbane was under 1% recently), and people are starting to blame immigrants on that problem, from a self-declared economist on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PhilipSoos , to even the Reserve Bank here: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2023-05-03/australia-briefing-rba-warns-on-migration.

So, if possible, could you write more about whether the problem with rental prices in this article could be really applied for Australia, if you could find data? You could just post as a comment here though.

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Does he really think that immigrants in a housing desert like NH could have any effect on local housing prices? Even if it was being paid for by the refugee agencies, the assistance stops after one year. Then they, sadly, have to go somewhere where they can share housing costs with other, established, refugees, and THAT makes no difference to local rental rates.

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May 27, 2023·edited May 27, 2023

Per the 2020 census, the United States of America saw the lowest ten-year population increase *in its history*. Yes, even lower than the 1930s. (And we ceased being a global leader in terms of net immigration rates many years ago: adjusted for scale, the US is at most a middling immigration power).

It would be a pretty sad state of affairs if the only way the US can bring relief to renters is by ratcheting down population growth even lower than its current, ahistorically depressed levels.

The GOP has fully transformed itself into the party to techno-pessimism and declinism. Sad!

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I never voted for Trump but I thought he could be a positive force by making the GOP more of working class oriented party and China skeptical and obviously rooting out neocons (how could it get worse?). So I thought maybe the Trump acolytes that won elections would maybe not be con men like Trump while promoting Trump’s agenda…boy was I wrong! JD Vance is a huge disappointment and I actually liked the movie based on Hillbilly Elegy!?!

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Trump attracts the "working class"* voters he does because his bigotry, lawlessness and conspiracism are his whole appeal.

*The modal working-class American is no longer White. The modal Trump supporter is the modal Jan. 6 insurrectionist -- a status-anxious asshole boss. See:

https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/01/06/trump-capitol-insurrection-january-6-insurrectionists-great-replacement-white-nationalism/?fbclid=IwAR1LoTb9ehe4AFW5igI0TlU6tLJIWj_DKc0_PW8OGtiQzPgDv

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DeSantis believes all of the Covid/Fauci/vaccine conspiracies and if he were to win it would be like a 9/11 Truther becoming president…it’s pretty messed up.

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A lot of people responded to Vance’s tweets by saying “Just build more housing!”

Well we could fine tune that by saying, "Just allow building more housing where demand makes it profitable to do so."

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As everyone else has already stated, the US doesn't have a replacement rate birth rate. You can only fill productive capacity with immigration. Inflation in rents/housing is not really discussed as a metric. It's bothered me for a long time yet real estate in a zero interest rates environment makes great sense. So I would look at private equity, second home ownership and zirp before I blamed immigrants. The flows of money point more to this.

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I forgot to add you have a shortage of unskilled labor that 'natives' seem unwilling to perform. 🙏

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That's because employers won't pay what the job is worth. Why do you think they love hiring people who are afraid of being kicked out of the country?

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This was sharp. Nicely done 👍🏻

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