Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Finding Equality in Texas

Virginia Postrel wants us to know that it wasn’t just taxes and regulation that caused Toyota to move its American headquarters from Torrance, CA to Plano, TX.

It was quality of life… that is, inexpensive real estate coupled with good public schools:

With its cheap suburban housing and good public schools, Plano in fact offers a 21st-century version of the middle-class California dream that built towns like Torrance. It’s just been updated, with more immigrants, better restaurants and a lot more marble countertops.

In contrasting Texas and California, politicians and pundits tend to emphasize taxes and business regulation. But for most people on a day-to-day basis, the biggest difference between the two is the cost of housing.

Although Plano is one of the country’s richest cities, with a highly educated population and a median income of $85,333 compared to Torrance’s $70,061, it offers a much wider range of housing options. You can pay nearly $7 million for a five-acre estate in Plano -- $3 million more than the most expensive listing in Torrance -- but the average home costs less than $200,000, compared to $552,000 in Torrance. A Redfin search for three-bedroom houses costing less than $400,000 turns up 149 in Plano versus four in Torrance; lowering the threshold to $300,000 cuts the Plano supply to 73, while yielding nothing in Torrance.

As I’ve written elsewhere, Plano’s combination of inexpensive real estate and excellent public schools has cultural consequences. It allows for more traditional lifestyles, since many families don’t need a second income to live a comfortable middle-class life. Many mothers choose to stay at home or to work, often part-time, for personal fulfillment and luxuries such as family vacations. For both men and women, a life oriented around work rather than family is less common than in coastal enclaves of similarly highly educated people.

Whatever the executives at Toyota were thinking, they have done their employees a favor.

Funny thing, Plano, TX sounds like equality. Torrance, CA looks like inequality. 

Plano seems to be the inverse of New York City, where extremely expensive real estate, coupled with extremely bad public schools produces gross inequality… two cities, one rich and the other poor.


sestamibi said...

Having lived in both Plano and NYC, I concur with your conclusions.

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