Monday, March 2, 2009

NIMBYs and seniors manage best through recession

Want to know the demographic magic bullets to survive recessions? According to a story in the Economist, areas with a larger share of seniors and NIMBYs -- such as California's Central Coast (i.e., Santa Barbara), its coast north of the Bay Area and some inland counties -- ride out economic troughs better than areas with younger populations:

Nowhere in California is immune to recession, but the oldest areas are proving most resistant. Of the ten counties with the lowest unemployment rates, nine, including Santa Barbara, contain an above-average proportion of people aged 65 or older. Youthful Los Angeles has shed almost a quarter-of-a-million jobs in the past year. Slightly older San Diego has lost a few thousand, while considerably older San Francisco has lost none. A map of the state’s retirees (see above) could almost double as a map of economic resilience...

California’s youngest regions are in its hot interior. In the middle years of this decade hundreds of thousands of families moved there in search of big, affordable houses. Unfortunately, many took on big, unaffordable mortgages to do it...

Health care is the only private-sector industry in California that accounted for job growth in 2008. Here, too, places benefit from having a fairly old population. The median age of people admitted to Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital is 55—eight years older than UCLA Hospital in Los Angeles. Although hospitals complain it is too stingy, few sources of revenue are more stable than Medicare, which paid for 44% of Santa Barbara’s patients in 2008.

In the past ten years, obedient to the findings of urban sociologists, American cities have tripped over themselves vying for young, creative people. They have revitalised downtowns and sponsored gay-pride parades. They might have been better off building retirement homes.

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