What's Happening in Oregon and Vermont?


A few weeks ago, I noted that there appeared to be correlation between government efforts to get more people into multifamily housing and low fertility rates. The correlation is not perfect — I estimated about 0.4 — because there are a lot of factors that affect fertility rates, but it appears strong enough that, if the goal is to have a healthy demographic structure, then single-family housing should be preferred.

Unfortunately, the census data I had available didn’t allow me to make a standard calculation of birth rates, so I used a substitute. Now, a group called BirthGauge has published the above map showing birth rates calculated the standard way. It does show that birth rates are lowest in the Pacific Coast and north Atlantic Coast states that have done the most to restrict new single-family housing in favor of multifamily.

What is surprising is that the states with the lowest birth rates are not New York or New Jersey, which have the highest shares of people living in multifamily housing, but Vermont and Oregon. More than half of all households in New York live in multifamily housing and more than 40 percent in New Jersey, while Oregon and Vermont are between 22 and 25 percent. As I say, there are other factors that affect fertility rates than density or multifamily housing, but what are they in the cases of Oregon and Vermont?

In response to BirthGauge, someone named Stefan Schubert pointed out (opens in new tab) the apparent correlation between fertility rates and red vs. blue states. While Vermont is pretty solidly blue, and Oregon has been blue for most of the last three decades, they aren’t the bluest states. But it still leaves open the question: what, other than land-use policy, do blue states do to depress fertility rates?

Read the rest of this piece at The Antiplanner.

Randal O'Toole, the Antiplanner, is a policy analyst with nearly 50 years of experience reviewing transportation and land-use plans and the author of The Best-Laid Plans: How Government Planning Harms Your Quality of Life, Your Pocketbook, and Your Future.

Graph: Source: BirthGauge.