Department of Numbers

Weekly Links

Posted Friday, April 09 2010

I'm constantly accumulating links that I think are either relevent to current or future Department of Numbers development, but I never really have a good place to put them. I either bookmark them or simply leave a lot of tabs open in my browser. Neither of these are really effective techniques for maintaining links as references. I thought I'd try dumping all those interesting links here on the blog once a week both to give me a place to put links I'd like to refer back to and to share informative or thought provoking content I've found over the course of the week. So here's a few things I've been reading this week.

China: Steve Waldman at Interfluidity had a informative post on the China/US exchange rate debacle. In the post he suggests that letting wages of Chinese workers rise more swiftly would be a better means of realigning trade flows between China and the US (and more politically palatable) than a significant exchange rate adjustment. It looks like China is getting ready to make some adjustments one way or another. [via AR]

Housing Affordability: Felix Salmon pointed out the Fannie Mae National Housing Survey report — an exhaustive look at the views of Americans on home ownership. The report shows that we have some pretty crazy views at times. For instance, Americans think buying a home is almost as safe as putting money in a savings account!

Housing Affordability: Edward Glaeser also looked at affordability in a post outlining why he thinks home prices will likely not rise. There are interesting points here about construction costs and development regulations leading to rising prices for areas like Boston and Manhattan, but I was surprised to see him quickly dismiss the price-to-income ratio as a indicator of affordability. I don't see it as a perfect or complete metric either, but it seems like price-to-income and price-to-rent both help normalize home prices for a particular geography. Yes, it may not be a stationary metric (it might trend down in Dallas and up in San Francisco), but it's hard to see how home prices are not in some fundamental way a function of incomes and comparable rents.

Housing Affordability: OK, affordability obviously stood out this week. New Geography looked at the Census population and Migration estimates and determined that people were mainly flowing out of regions with unaffordable homes and into ones that were either affordable or markets it calls "safety valves." Safety valve cities might also have experienced bubbles, but they were more affordable than the regions that people flowed in from. An example might be LA to Riverside.