Right to Work States Enjoy 2:1 Advantage in New Single-Unit Housing


As demographer and commentator Joel Kotkin has explained, the decline in U.S. single-family home ownership that began more than a decade ago is due primarily to “high prices and low incomes.” But U.S. Census data clearly show single-unit housing is far more affordable for residents of Right to Work states than for residents of forced-unionism states. Image: Aaron Salcido/Zocalo Public Square

American families have long aspired to buy and live in their own single-unit homes. But in recent years this aspiration has fallen on hard times. From 2004 to 2016, the share of Americans living in their homes fell from 69.0% to 63.4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (BOC).

Some pundits claim the secular decline in homeownership merely reflects the fact that adults born in the 1980’s and early 1990’s are making different “lifestyle choices” than previous generations. But in a recent analysis (see the second link below to read the whole thing), demographer Joel Kotkin showed that the primary factors preventing “millennials” from buying their own homes are “high prices and low incomes.”

Survey after survey, pointed out Kotkin, shows that roughly 80% of millennials, including the vast majority of current renters, are interested in acquiring their own home. The problem is that an alarmingly high share can’t afford to do so.

Fortunately, moving from a forced-unionism state to a Right to Work state continues to be part of the solution for many young adults who are interested in making the transition from renter to homeowner.

For example, the BOC’s tracking of residential construction in the 50 states (see the first link below) shows that last year there 3.21 permits for construction of privately-owned, single-unit houses per 1000 residents in the 26 Right to Work states as a group.  That’s well over double the 1.46 authorizations per 1000 residents in the 24 forced-unionism states in 2016. (Since the Kentucky and Missouri Right to Work laws were not approved until this year, they are counted as forced-unionism states here.)

The correlation between Right to Work laws prohibiting forced union dues and fees and new single-family housing is quite robust.  Twelve of the 14 states with the most 2016 authorizations per 1000 residents are Right to Work states. But of the 12 bottom-ranking states, 11 (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) are forced-unionism.

Of course, housing authorizations are only one of manifold pieces of evidence pointing to higher living standards and faster economic growth in Right to Work states. Within the next couple of weeks, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research will publish the latest update of a fact sheet that provides a short summary of this body of evidence.

Permits by State – Annual

The High Cost of a Home Is Turning American … – The Daily Beast