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Do Rising Tides Lift All Prices? Income Inequality and Housing Affordability

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  • Janna L. Matlack
  • Jacob L. Vigdor

Abstract

Simple partial-equilibrium models suggest that income increases at the high end of the distribution can raise price paid by those at the low end of the income distribution. This prediction does not universally hold in a general equilibrium model, or in models where the rich and poor consume distinct products. We use Census microdata to evaluate these predictions empirically, using data on housing markets in American metropolitan areas between 1970 and 2000. Evidence clearly and unsurprisingly shows that decreases in one's own income lead to less housing consumption and less income left over after paying for housing. The effect of increases in others' income, holding one's own income constant, is more nuanced. In tight housing markets, the poor do worse when the rich get richer. In slack markets, at least some evidence suggests that increases in others' income, holding own income constant, may be beneficial.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12331.

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Date of creation: Jun 2006
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12331

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  1. Amy S. Bogdon & Ayse Can, 1997. "Indicators of Local Housing Affordability: Comparative and Spatial Approaches," Real Estate Economics, American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association, vol. 25(1), pages 43-80.
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  7. Todd Sinai & Nicholas S. Souleles, 2003. "Owner-Occupied Housing as a Hedge Against Rent Risk," NBER Working Papers 9462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2001. "The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," NBER Working Papers 8337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Sweeney, James L, 1974. "Quality, Commodity Hierarchies, and Housing Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 42(1), pages 147-67, January.
  10. Quigley, John M. & Raphael, Steven, 2004. "Is Housing Unaffordable? Why Isn't It More Affordable?," Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, Working Paper Series qt1vp9j3k0, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy.
  11. Danziger, Sheldon & Gottschalk, Peter, 1986. "Do Rising Tides Lift All Boats? The Impact of Secular and Cyclical Changes on Poverty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(2), pages 405-10, May.
  12. George J. Borjas, 2003. "The Labor Demand Curve is Downward Sloping: Reexamining the Impact of Immigration on the Labor Market," NBER Working Papers 9755, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Greulich, Erica & Quigley, John M. & Raphael, Steven, 2005. "The Anatomy of Rent Burdens: Immigration, Growth and Rental Housing," Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy, Working Paper Series qt63t3t356, Berkeley Program on Housing and Urban Policy.
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Cited by:
  1. Sholeh A. Maani & Rhema Vaithianathan & Barbara Wolfe, 2006. "Inequality and Health: Is Housing Crowding the Link?," Working Papers 06_09, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
  2. Marianne Bertrand & Adair Morse, 2013. "Trickle-Down Consumption," NBER Working Papers 18883, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Gregory J. Colman & Dahlia K. Remler, 2008. "Vertical equity consequences of very high cigarette tax increases: If the poor are the ones smoking, how could cigarette tax increases be progressive?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 27(2), pages 376-400.
  4. Caroline Dewilde, 2011. "GINI DP 18: The interplay between economic inequality trends and housing regime changes in advanced welfare democracies," GINI Discussion Papers 18, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.

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