Tag Archives: Housing

Feminism and Housing Costs

Today I read this (h/t: BitterBabe) and this one quote really stood out:

Commentators said yesterday that pressures on women to work and pay mortgages mean that many do not have the same choice over having families that their mothers did.

I’ve discussed feminism and choice before, and I’ve discussed how feminists are in opposition to the wants of most women before, but now I’m going to focus on something specific: housing.

I’m going to explain exactly where the “pressures on women to pay mortgages” comes from.

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Housing is the single largest expense most people have (other than possibly taxes), taking up almost 35% of their income. Unlike most goods, which have gotten cheaper over time due to technology improvements, housing costs as a percentage of income has remained stable over time (with the possible exception of fluctuations due to the housing bubble and crash).

Why is that?

The primary reason is that housing is mostly a positional good.* The price of a house has less to do with the actual materials making the house and more with the desirability of the land the house resides on. This is why a house in New York costs so much more than the cost of a similar house in, say, Detroit.

The other reason is that people are using extra income buying larger homes.

For both these reasons, as people’s incomes grow higher they will generally increase their housing costs to match a proportion of their income. You see this all the time, where people will buy bigger and better houses even if their old houses were perfectly livable and they do not require more space for the kids they are not having.

As people buy more housing the price of housing goes up. So, over time, as people’s incomes go up, they will buy more housing, which will increase the price of housing, increasing the absolute amount spent on housing.

Because of this mechanic, the proportion of income spent on housing remains stable even as incomes go up.

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So, what does this have to do with feminism and choice?

As more women have entered the workforce, they have contributed their income to their households. Because of this household incomes have increased, but, because of the primarily positional nature of housing, the proportion of income spent on housing by households has stayed the same.

So,to now purchase the same amount of housing you could purchase on a single income prior to women entering the workforce en masse you need the equivalent income of a two-income household.

Because of this, families are now in a position, where two incomes are required for sufficient housing space for a family in many areas.

Households wanting to live in certain areas are now required to have the women work rather than stay home simply to afford housing.

As more women enter the workforce, the viability of women choosing to stay home decreases.

Most women desire to stay home with their children, if they could afford it, and the feminist desire to have women be economically independent is removing that choice from them.

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Of course, I have completely ignored the impacts of divorce on housing costs for former households and the impacts of increased demand. You should be able to figure them out yourselves (hint: they increase housing prices and costs).

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Combine this with the unfeasible daycare costs I previously pointed, and you being to wonder if women moving into the working world has provided any benefits to most women.

Most women desire to stay home, but many are forced to work because they can’t afford not to.

But their biggest expense is only that big because women are working and one of their next biggest expenses only exists because they are working.

Is this what most women want? To be forced to work for little real benefit.

Question for women: Do you enjoy spending your days at work rather than with your children knowing that most of what you earn is not actually providing any real benefit to your or your children?

If not, maybe you should think about what you support.

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Now, for budding patriarchs, this doesn’t mean your (future) wife has to work. What it does mean is that it will require sacrifices and good planning.

You will have to limit your desire for a bigger home (even as you need a bigger home than most, because you’re filling your quiver instead of vacationing in Mexico). You may have to commute longer or find a job away from the urban core. You will likely have to forgo other luxuries.

If you and your wife plan on having her be a homemaker, you will have to discuss this with her. You will have much less house than your peers, and this could lead to envy for you and your wife. You will not be able to afford yearly vacations to distant lands. There are numerous luxuries and status symbols you will have to give up.

You have to make this clear to both yourself and her that this lifestyle is a sacrifice and that both are willing to accept it.

In the long-run, which is more important to you though?

Your child being raised by his mother rather than strangers and the educational system. Or the status symbol of a bigger house and your children being forced to share a room.

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* It is only primarily a positional good, not totally. Housing does have a certain intrinsic worth and the materials in housing have a certain intrinsic cost, but, by comparing housing prices in high- and low-demand areas we can easily see that the costs of housing are primarily due to the comparative value of the land on which they are built, than the homes themselves. Of course, it can be argued that the value of the land is not exactly positional, in that being in geographic proximity to certain locations has its own intrinsic value, but this does not effect my point. My point only requires that the value of land is due to competition between potential buyers, for whatever reason, rather than for any immediate practical effect the land has on the utility of the home itself.