If Tara Siegel Bernard of The New York Times is right, (city of) New Yorkers must be among the most irrational people in the world. In "High-Rise or House with Yard," she describes the purported financial advantages of living in a co-op apartment in Brooklyn versus suburban South Orange, New Jersey.
The irrationality is that, despite the money that households can save by staying in the city, a net more than 350,000 left for the suburbs between 2000 and 2007, as E. J. McMahon and I found in Empire State Exodus, which summarized IRS inter-county migration data. Indeed, each of the city's five boroughs lost domestic migrants to the suburbs during the period. An analysis by The New York Times itself found that the city had lost net domestic migrants to every suburban county in the metropolitan area as well as to every county in newly exurban northeastern Pennsylvania. This includes Allentown-Bethlehem and Scranton-Wilkes Barre, toward which New Jersey land use regulations have driven new development.
"High Rise or House with Yard" stands alone in claiming that New York City is less costly than its suburbs. The most recent (and authoritative) ACCRA cost of living index for Brooklyn is a full 40% higher than in the South Orange (the Newark-Elizabeth area). This is before considering the fact that the Brooklyn home is a 1,000 square foot coop apartment with two bedrooms and one bath, while the suburban home is a 2,000 square foot house in South Orange with four bedrooms and 2.5 baths. Smaller apples may well be less expensive than bigger oranges. The Times also assumes that the suburban resident will commute by train to Manhattan, at more than $400 per month. It is also possible that, like 80% of South Orange commuters, the new suburbanite may choose to work in the New Jersey suburbs. Maybe New Yorkers are not all that irrational after all.
Moreover, people are moving even further than the suburbs and exurbs, with almost as many people moving from New York City even further away. The latest Bureau of the Census data indicates that every borough experienced a net domestic migration loss between 2000 and 2009. More than 1.2 million residents left New York City, nearly as many people as live in the cities of Washington and Boston combined.
- Manhattan lost more than a 140,000 net domestic migrants, more people than live in the city of Hartford.
- Brooklyn lost nearly 450,000 net domestic migrants, more people than live in the city of Miami.
- Queens lost a 420,000 net domestic migrants, nearly as many people as live in the city of Cleveland.
- The Bronx more than 200,000 net domestic migrants, more people than live in the city of Providence, Rhode Island.
- Staten Island did much better, losing only 5,000 net domestic migrants. But then, much of Staten Island looks more like suburban New Jersey than New York City
In the face of these losses of which at least some at The New York Times are aware, the article notes that "Many empty-nesters are giving up the high-maintenance house in the suburbs in exchange for the attractions of city life." Not that many.
Photo: New Jersey Suburbs