2018-11-09 —

America needs to find a way to do better than this. Being the home to a very large share of the world's most dynamic high tech companies is an incredible source of national strength, but in practical terms it does not benefit most Americans. With better policy it could.


Over a decade ago, housing economists Janna Matlack and Jacob Vigdor investigated the economic impact of unequal economic development and found that "in tight housing markets, the poor do worse when the rich get richer."

A "tight" housing market, in this case, is a market like greater New York or greater Washington, where the cost of buying a house greatly exceeds the actual construction costs of new buildings. The problem in markets like this is that when the rich get richer -- say because a new office complex opens and hires 20,000 to 30,000 people for six-figure salaries -- the price of scarce housing rises.

If you actually get a job at Amazon or have the kind of job skills that you plausibly could get a job at Amazon, this will pay off for you because you'll end up with higher wages that more than equal the higher rent. But if you work in a restaurant or cut hair or clean houses or a drive cab, you'll probably end up worse off.

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