Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Monday, August 31, 2009

Stoat With Your Feet

Grobstein is apparently my only source of ideas these days, as one of his links has led me to this post by Ilya Somin on "voting with your feet." The post irritated me enough to provoke this post, but then defused my anger toward the end by acknowledging the obvious point that "voting with your feet" impedes redistribution. Too late, though - I'm geared up to write a post on redistribution and geography.

Somin claims that "voting with your feet" benefits poor people more than rich people. Somin bases this claim on two assertions: 1) it is easier for poor people to move because they have fewer possessions; and 2) it was helpful for southern blacks to have the ability to move out of the South.

I'm a little unclear on what point #2 has to do with the thesis. Point #1 seems relatively weak to me compared to the distributional impact of mobility. I may have blogged about this before - it's a hobbyhorse of mine - but anyway here goes.

Actually, too tired to write the whole post now. So a quick motivating observation, and then I'll finish the thought in my next post.

St. Louis and Baltimore are both characterized by high levels of violent crime, bad schools, etc. Hopefully I won't get any argument when I claim that they are both poor and dangerous relative to other American cities. For instance, they are second and third in murders and non-negligent manslaughters per capita (behind Detroit, which is in Wayne County but which has its own problems). Data here.

They are also independent cities - neither is within a county. Baltimore County and St. Louis County exist, but the cities seceded long ago (Baltimore in 1851 and St. Louis in 1876, if Wikipedia is to be believed). Outside of Virginia, which is idiosyncratic, there are very few independent cities in the United States (but not too much should be made of this, because quite a few cities, while not technically independent, are coterminous with their counties).

I will claim that none of this is coincidence - the poverty, the status as independent cities, the time period during which the cities seceded from their counties. This is all tightly bound up with "voting with your feet," and it throws considerable doubt on the thesis that this phenomenon has been a boon to poor people. But it will have to wait for my next post.


Anonymous skull and boners said...

_Very_ hard to believe this isn't a coincidence. All sorts of very poor cities (Detroit, Cleveland) are in counties with burbs. Surely what St. L. and Baltimore have in common is they were like the 3rd and 4th biggest cities in the US around the mid-1800s? Another thing they have in common, btw, is that they've had the largest population drops since the 1950s, along with (iirc) Hartford, Newark, and Pittsburgh.

2:58 PM  
Anonymous stoats toward a supreme fiction said...

actually never mind that list which is evidently incorrect.

6:45 PM  
Blogger a said...

It's too bad that Wash U and JHU can't "vote with their feet" and move their campuses to a more pleasant location, such as rural Massachusetts.


12:30 AM  
Blogger James said...

Washington University is actually not within the borders of St. Louis, and if I remember correctly it's in a decent neighborhood. Johns Hopkins should just be grateful that it was featured in Season 4 of the Wire.

7:40 AM  

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