by Brenée Goforth
Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
This week, JLF’s Joe Coletti wrote a research brief on a recent Ed Glaeser interview that sheds light on how America’s programs to mitigate risk for the middle class have impaired opportunities for young people. Coletti writes:
Over the past century, our rich country has taken steps to protect people from risks with Social Security, Medicare, zoning regulations, occupational licenses, minimum wages, and other programs. Glaeser sees that all of these contribute to the “number of ways in which the modern American economy isn’t working all that well for them [young people].” Young people see that “insiders have managed to stack the deck against outsiders.”
For instance, restrictive zoning laws have made housing costs prohibitive for young would-be homeowners. Coletti writes:
“Prior to 1980,” Glaeser comments, “poor people moved to high-wage areas.” But it has become prohibitively expensive to live in those places because existing homeowners limited what could be done with the nearby properties. These restrictions leave housing supply unable to keep up with demand. As a result, “there’s this intergenerational redistribution that’s occurred by restricting housing supply,” which means “younger people just don’t have housing wealth.” Glaeser’s interviewer adds, “By 2013, a 35- to 44-year-old person at the 75th percentile had less than half as much home equity (adjusted for inflation) as his counterpart did 30 years earlier.”
However, there is hope. Coletti says:
Fortunately, we have an opportunity to follow those of a previous generation and “advocate for freedom, not only because of its economic benefits but also because all humans deserve a chance to chart their destiny, free from the overweening grip of the state.” New members of the Raleigh City Council are willing to give homeowners more flexibility to create more housing in their backyards and ease height restrictions. Other zoning rules could also be loosened. Occupational licensing, which restricts opportunities to work, is in retreat in other states and under threat in North Carolina. Some places have even begun to ensure protections for child entrepreneurs and their lemonade stands against overly zealous regulators.