The ALS Bucket Challenge, Clean Water, Fantasy Football, Botox, and the Insect on the Leaf

Attention conservation notice: If you would like to solve the world’s water problems, I’m on board, but going after ALS is silly. Instead, go after fantasy football and botox, if you are going to equate dollars with importance.

Disclaimer: My beloved husband lost his mother and grandfather both to ALS, and he and I have spent years and years facing the shadow of his having that disease hanging over us. So I get rather shirty with the pronouncements that ALS is not ‘sufficiently important’ to merit the fundraising that has occurred around the Ice Bucket Challenge. I’ve lost track of how much they’ve raised–$70 million was my last count. So while others are able to talk about the disease and whose death matters in the abstract, I can’t do that here.

As Dickens has the Ghost of Christmas Present to Ebeneezer Scrooge:

Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be that, in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh, God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

But I think the other reason I’m so grumpy, other than the facile way people seem to be deciding whose suffering is important and whose isn’t, is the way in which utilitarianism seems have to leapt forward as the default mode for thinking about the morals of the challenge. And that way madness lay. Friends don’t let friends become act-utilitarians.

The argument goes something like this: ‘only’ about 5,500 people die every year of ALS in the US. Then we tote up the body counts that occur from other things: lack of potable water, as one example, and the relative bigness of that number compared to the relative smallness of ALS, and then we conclude that people are over-giving to ALS because of the relative bigness of the other, bigger problems.

The problem with toting up bodies to decide relative social value of lives lost is that it’s unlikely, unless you are talking to economists, to convince anybody for any real length of time. Yes, of course, we can agree it’s worse when 10,000 people die than when 5,000 people die, but it’s not like that really decides resource allocation in human society. So one popular new thread is to note that 3.5 million people die from unsanitary water every year. So much more important than ALS. And I agree: it is a devastating loss of human potential, and absolutely unacceptable.

Except that we have the technology to save the victims of waterborne diseases. We’ve had relatively low cost solutions that could save millions and millions of lives, and we’ve had these solutions for decades. It’s not like ALS where there is no known cure, and money for research might find a cure; we’ve got the cure for waterborne diseases, but we won’t implement them. There’s evil here, but it’s not that ALS gobbled up all the resources, and there’s none left to solve the mystery for why some children die from waterborne diseases and others don’t.

According to the WHO, it would cost about $22 billion a year to get everybody access to clean drinking water. We could raise that money if every American would toss in $7.07. I’m in! By all means. Raise my sales tax on iced caramel lattes. They are bad for me anyway.

Or, everybody who plays fantasy football could knock that off and give that money to clean water. Fantasy football is a $70 billion-dollar-a-year industry when you factor in ad revenue, and $15 billion in hard sales. $15 billion a year isn’t the total bill, but it would more than halve the number of deaths from waterborne diseases.

So while we can denounce giving to ALS because it is ‘less important’ than waterborne diseases, people blow through over three times what it would cost to fix waterborne illness on fantasy football and selling other things we probably don’t need on fantasy football websites. I’m picking on fantasy football; we could easily go with the global beauty industry which is expected to hit $265 billion a year by 2017. We could provide clean water to every baby on the planet 12 times over (and some change) if people stopped buying lipstick, hairspray and botox. How clever of me to have solved the issue, eh?

The Mexican government once found $22 billion in cash stashed in the walls of one drug lord’s house. Boom. There’s one year of clean water, right there.

ALS’s 70 million is looking a little like chump change now, though, isn’t it, when we evaluate $$$ and priorities. So ALS might not be as important as waterborne disease, but I’m thinking that BOTH ALS and waterborne diseases are more important than pretending to manage teams where grown men play with a little ball. Or botox.

And yet. Here we are. Fantasy football and botox get to amble on, unquestioned in their moral importance because a market exists for them. But ALS and the people giving to it? Utterly wrong! Because waterborne disease!

Critics of the ALS challenge assume the ALS giving has displaced giving to other charities, but I’d sure like to see the data on that because I’m betting much of what they raised came from new gifts. We don’t know that the money given to ALS would have gone to another cause, let alone a worthier one. That’s what Kant helps us grasp: humility regarding the metaphysics of assumed values of future or counterfactual states. Maybe every single $ raised under the ALS bucket challenge would have otherwise been spent on Twinkies, bacon, cocaine, Vin Scully bobblehead dolls, pay-per-view mixed martial arts matches, and fantasy football etc, etc. etc. Thus debating the marginal benefit versus the opportunity cost is entirely speculative until we get the data. There are lot of places that money could have gone (cigarettes, porn, Halloween costumes for your iguana, etc) other than worthier diseases.

Even settling that empirical question does not settle the moral questions, and this is where the universe of spending on social welfare has, to me, gotten even murkier in our neoliberal world. The idea that we might, somehow, as a society suss out what social concerns (like disease and cures) should be funded and what should wait might be adjudicated through the welfare state charged with figuring out what society’s most important problems are. But one of the idealogical bases for deconstructing the welfare state has been to avoid forcing people through taxation to give their money to solve social ills they don’t agree are either a) ills or b) solvable or c) more important than their own priorities for that money. Thus, dismantle the welfare state and leave people alone to do what they WANT to give their money to, into the hands of the voluntary, private sector, both private and nonprofit, where atomistic organizations, like ALS and my little rescue nonprofit, compete for the hearts and minds and dollars of donors. That environment rewards innovation and entrepreneurship…like deriving cute and fun fundraising strategies which get celebrities involved.

That is a much different moral context than the assumption that we can wind up with a collective, unitary, public interest ranking for spending on social ills that truly captures an aggregate social welfare function. That context creates analogues in charitable giving for consumer sovereignty where it is entirely possible that people enjoy doing the bucket challenge and prefer to give their dollars to ALS, and to be a part of a particular circle of giving, than to give to some other, supposedly worthier cause that offers them less fun ways of giving and less of a chance to be part of something. So what if your cost-benefit rationale shows society would be better off with that money going to cancer or mosquito netting, under these circumstances? I’m sure we could do a c-b that shows society would be better off if consumers bought more brussels sprouts and fewer onion rings, but voluntary transactions depending on individual utility curves don’t work that way. Whatever distribution results from individual choice has its own prima facie legitimacy based on noncompulsion unless we can make a case for externalities or other information problems. If ALS really isn’t worth curing and the Ice Bucket Challenge was not what people really ought to be doing, then…why did so many people do it, and why do so many people continue to do it even after potential information problems in the market were addressed? That is, as soon as the challenge went viral, claims that ALS doesn’t merit such largesse came up almost immediately and in high-profile venues. And yet there are still buckets going over heads.

Finally, and this is the big surprise: the fact that ALS is a “small” disease might actually make it much, much worthier of charitable giving based on need than big-number diseases. Big number diseases, like cancer, offer some pretty damn good incentives for private companies to stay in the hunt for research and treatments. The lab who develops the anti-diabetes pill and the anti-cancer treatment will stand to make money. That’s much less likely to be true for for a disease that ‘only’ kills off a relatively small number of people. In that instance, charitable giving may have a huge role to play in shoring up what is likely to be a consumer set undervalued by the for-profit part of private sector because of the relative size of future revenue streams compared to other markets. Isn’t charity supposed to fill exactly those kinds of market gaps?

There is absolutely nothing preventing somebody from responding to the challenge with “Cancer/Clean Water/Foster kids are closer to my heart than ALS, but here’s my bucket, and here’s my checks for these other causes, and I challenge Bob and Judy and Marcus to give to their favorite charities, too.” And again, that could be an empirical question. Maybe all those shaking their fists at the ALS challenge have taken this moment to write that check to the cause that meets their standard of importance, and giving overall to every worthy cause might go up as the challenge got people thinking about giving when they otherwise might not. I can’t think of a downside to that.

Instead, I strongly suspect that people are just complaining and opining. Because, you know, the social value of those activities? Utterly priceless.

And, yes, “I read what I wanna, no judging” is also boring

As regular readers will know, I count myself among the book snobs that the folks over at Book Riot and whatnot always seem to complain about. The book snobs: those sniffy, snotty, elitist people who fail to validate one and all for whatever reading choices they make. I’ve taken various positions against the “I read what I wanna” position that predominates the anti-book-snob snobbery, but this one here from David Mikics really says it so much better: repetitive assertions of one’s own consumer sovereignty, are, among other things, simply boring: :

There have been a memorable series of “battles of the books” over the centuries (Jonathan Swift’s extraordinary eighteenth-century satire The Battle of the Books will give you a taste of such combat.) Arguments over how to judge the worth of books are perpetual and unavoidable: they are also deeply useful. such arguments can be invigorating and helpful no matter what side we’re on. They can save us from a dull insistence on our personal taste. We ought to stretch that taste, to see where it might lead. Be hard on yourself; think about why you like or dislike something in a book, and how someone else might respond to your judgment.

Emphasis mine. This is from his wonderful book Slow Reading in a Hurried World.

IOW, insistence that you can read whatever you want is, indeed, factually true, but if you use that freedom merely to indulge your fantasies and need for entertainment, fine, but don’t expect the rest of us, who are challenging ourselves, not to find you dull.

Saving room for cats: Slouching and spreading on public transit

I have to say that the internet can be utterly redeeming.

As a young feminist at UCLA, where they are for-sure, for-sure more justice-oriented than all the rest of the planning world, I once made a point in a seminar with my fellow students that men who slouch and spread themselves all over transit seats were enacting male privilege. Of course, this statement was nonsense, utter nonsense, the male students went to to decry, and it was the dumbest dumb thing that could ever be dumb, as women who make knowledge claims should understand about the dumb things they say all the the time, particularly when critiquing male entitlement. (I will be forever grateful to have had the privilege of going through my doctoral program with Renia Ehrenfeucht, now at the University of New Orleans. I never would have finished without her; a brilliant mind and genuinely focused on justice.)

So when the whole Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train Tumblr went viral, along with the utterly, utterly hilarious Saving Room for Cats Tumblr, I was able to smirk a bit.

Tumblr n9o47czRcD1tcqv97o1 400

This morning’s entry comes from Gabrielle Moss at Bustle, who writes about an experiment where she decided to sit like a man on public transit:

I decided, for the length of one weekend, to become a slouch-and-spreader. To truly understand the phenomenon, I decided I’d act like the worst examples I had encountered in my own commuting life: I wouldn’t budge for a knee nudge or exasperated expression. I would hold my ground. I would embody the worst of slouch-and-spread assholery to the letter. I would try very hard to imagine that I had balls, and that those balls were desperate for air. And by the end of the weekend, I hoped to understand what made the slouch-and-spreaders slouch and spread.

Her write up is funny and insightful. Inadvertently, I think she comes to the same point Cheryl Sandberg comes when, from her perch of unbelievable social privilege, she hands out advice on how to behave to other women who just aren’t going after what they want:

And then, as my weekend wore on, a funny thing happened: I registered the fear and displeasure of strangers less and less. I went from faking being absorbed in my book as I maintained a nervously wide stance, to actually being absorbed in my book, forgetting that my legs were splayed out like I was holding a beach ball between my knees.

In other words, I became unconscious of my own manufactured privilege. As people viewed my leg spread as an act of aggression and possible instability and steered clear of me, I slowly began to stop even noticing them.

Now, do I think hogging space in public is a particularly important aspect of male privilege? No. It’s not world-changing. But it is indicative.

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #20 Annette Kim

Annette Kim recently joined our faculty here at USC, and she’s a specialist in international development who works in Asia. She’s got a long cv, but today I am going to write about her first book:

Learning to be Capitalists: Entrepreneurs in Vietnam’s transition economy. Oxford University Press, 2008.

Ok, before we start, I have to share my favorite line in the book:

The study of capitalism (and Communism) is an ideological minefield filled with caricatures.


This book presents Kim’s dissertation research in Ho Chi Minh City studying Vietnam as a transitioning economy. For decades, many believed Vietnam would be one of the least likely states to succeed in transitioning their economy. Kim suggests that the comparatively rapid changes in transition economies have to do with “social cognition.” Capitalism is a culture and a set of norms as much as it is an institution. People thus have to learn how to do it, and social conditions vary systematically in fostering that learning. Her study traces how individuals learn to behave as capitalists as they interact with others doing the same–thereby changing a place and culture. The research triangulates between state actions to foster capitalist growth with following business owners as they learn to grasp the stakes and rules, and also as they learn how to innovate in their particular contexts.

She’s interested primarily in real estate, so the story begins from a difficult position: property rights are unstable and ostensibly collectively held, so that anybody who goes forward believing they have the entitlement to developt might, actually, be wrong and find they have invested in property that might get expropriated. In addition, there is the development of the permitting and approvals process to get going at the same time that developers are hoping to get stuff done. That’s a problem everywhere, but in a place where protocols and private plans evolve at the same time, it adds even more risk to what is already a risky venture. Nonetheless, people figured it out, and as Kim shows, they figured it out primarily through social and political connections which represent a risk minimization strategy.

I’ll let you read the book–it’s beautifully written–to get the rest, but one point: she does discuss state-sponsored planning and what they did to boost capitalism, and it comes back to the old saw: infrastructure. They developed various plans and urban districts in Ho Chi Minh City, but I strongly suspect much of the planning support for real estate came in the form it usually does: streets, roads, transit, water, sewer, electricity, etc. etc.


She has another book, Sidewalk City: Re-mapping Public Space in Ho Chi Minh City. University of Chicago Press, coming out in 2015, so we can look forward to that.

Annalee Newitz explains that gentrification isn’t about race or class, and she’s wrong

This piece over at IOS9 makes some good points, particularly about Istanbul, but it really would help me if we could stop acting like gentrification has nothing to do with money, race, or power.

At one point, she proclaims: “Politics can be more important than money.” Since when have politics and money been separate things, or exerted separate effects? Essentially, she reframes the word “immigrant” to mean “person who moves from one place to another.” And, golly, well, those people, rich and poor, need a place to live, and well, typical response: increase the housing supply, make those current residents suck it up. Gee, I wish I’d thought of that.


1) There are no data that show immigrants drive gentrification in the article. She just decides this point is true and argues from there. One of our brilliant PhD students, Sarah Mawhorter, is studying the various mechanisms of neighborhood change, including just these questions, and she’s not doing that because it’s obvious how gentrification works. She’s doing it because there are a lot of possible levers of neighborhood change, including migrants, but not excluding…money, race, (and gender, and age, and nativity). There’s lots of stuff here, but let’s not act like all that stuff is unrelated to power. For an article that sits on a “popular science” website, there are no data to support Newitz’s argument that neighborhood sociodemographic change occurs because of immigration rather than natural increase or migration. There are actual data about differences in native-born versus foreign-born migrants to different urban enclaves and how different groups settle in metropolitan regions (Katrin Anaker, Dowell Myers). I’m sure that immigrants and migrants sort, and I am sure that relatively affluent immigrants do foster neighborhood change, but I doubt it’s the whole phenomenon as Newitz represents it.

2) Claiming that gentrification results from immigration does not defuse the issues at heart of gentrification, which come down to power–time and time again. There is an entire literature on the political economy of growth controls (Logan and Molotch has close to 4K cites for their book). It’s not an accident that supply lags demand in US housing markets, and it’s not an accident that the US is bad at public housing. The housing game is rigged, and while people with H-1 visas working for the tech giants might need a place to live, the fact that they can have it and others can’t is a function of power. Hell, the fact they can have visas and we’re sending refugee children back to death and enslavement on the southern border suggests privilege might be at work here. Sure, tech workers are useful and they help global capital do its thing, and we all get Angry Birds and Grindr and Yelp and whatnot, and no doubt many a tech worker has a lovely bootstrap story to tell us about how hard they have worked (well done, that), but it’s not like global capital flows have nothing to do with selectively offering and rescinding opportunities to select groups and not others. When those wealthy Congoese displace Malibu residents, we can say that everything has come full circle.

3) San Francisco is not really that speshul, even though its market is crazy now. But is it not really that anti-growth. It is exactly the fact that is has been anti-growth on the residential side (like just about every California city postProp 13), and quite pro-growth on the commercial side, that makes it so very very appealing to those with gobs of tech money. They aren’t going to let you throw the lid off zoning any more than prior generations would. But seriously: commercial real estate in SF…those folks get what they want pretty routinely. Growth regimes in cities have variety, too, and while San Francisco has succeeded in making itself in a great big gated community with all that tech money coming in, it’s hardly the only place in California where housing demand lags supply, even though it is the place where privileged immigrants might be very high profile in their housing consumption.

Who Lost Cities? Everybody did.

Kevin Williamson writes fairly regularly for the National Review, and unlike other columnnists over there, his pieces usually have actual reporting in them, steered towards his audience, sure, but actual reporting, unlike the general conservative celebrity writers who can just puff on about whatever they want. Here, however, I think Williamson is just wrong. He asks Who Lost the Cities? His major argument is that Democrats have failed cities. US cities are mess because Democrats run them. Mostly, he’s reacting to Jesse Jackson’s claims that social injustice in American regions has contributed to the conditions in Ferguson.

I made a comment, which prompted Williams to backpeddle a bit, and then made some conservatives get all snarky, but…I have enough friends. My problem is simply, that Ferguson is not really much of an example of urban governance, either way, and neither is the careless way Williamson conflates riots with governance failures–it’s equally as irresponsible as Jesse Jackson’s. We have multiple periods of urban riots going back to the early stages of migration, including nativist movements and anti-union riots, pro-labor riots…and a bunch more. The mayor of Ferguson is currently a Republican. I don’t think that proves much of anything, and it’s certainly not a better explanation than the connection between the police and white supremacy. That means it doesn’t matter who sits in the mayor’s office, Republicans or Democrats, if everybody is neglecting urban institutions.

It’s not clear to me that as a general phenomenon (not in Ferguson’s case) 1) whether the blow-up of rioting results from of specific types of bad governance, or a flashpoint that occurs after a long legacy of anger, that then correlate with particular urban political structures, let alone particular administrations, and 2) When we are talking about bad government across cities in the US, we are actually talking about vastly different forms and structures even in Williamson’s original list: Los Angeles, for example, doesn’t belong in the same grouping as Philly or Detroit or Chicago; you could elect Republican mayors in Los Angeles for the next 100 years and all they would do is cut ribbons in front of bike lanes….because that’s pretty much all they got. There’s no mayor strutting around LA bragging about how he reformed the LAPD because he’d be greeted with a horselaugh. It’s a weak mayor set up. All the juice is in the County Supervisors. I’m actually not entirely unsympathetic to Williamson’s overall point: the idea that cities are badly governed, or that Jesse Jackson is a self-interested press seeker, or that the idea of governing a city is chimerical…I just don’t think the attempts to hook it into riots hold much water, and it represents a rather cheesy way to agenda-set around a hot-news item, Ferguson.

Finally, the attempt that Williams makes between cities and social policy also strikes me as not particularly believable. Education policy, I can’t speak to, but it’s only been comparatively recently in very large cities where any real attempts have been made to shore up social insurance programs–Blasio, for example, is one of a very small truly center-left politicos running a city. It remains to be seen how Garcetti turns out. Despite being obviously bright and well-intentioned, he’ll run up against my comment about bike lanes and LA above. This is a weak mayor town, as are a lot of cities in the western US; however, he’s trying to do some ambitious things around homeless veterans, for example. We’ll see.

Italo Calvino on why we should read the classics

As regular readers know, I am dubious that we book snobs influence much of anybody, let alone oppressing the legions of people who read bestsellers, both exceptional and mediocre, with our book snobbery and elitism. There simply aren’t enough of us to make a dent in all that. That said, I’m rather fed to the teeth with the backlash directed at Ruth Graham’s piece in Slate: Against YA. Her point: yeah, sure it’s fine to read young adult books as an adult, but you should want more from reading, and expect more from yourself, than simple escapism every time you open a book. This thesis prompted entirely predictable outrage and stomping of the feet and meany-meany-meanpants elitist accusations, a lot of which I strongly suspect comes from people simply affronted at a woman daring to suggest that she was better at something than they are. I’m smart! They yell and scream. I’m totally smart and what I choose to read is none of your beeswax! Stop judging, you judgey person! I’m a zillionaire I-banker and that proves I’m smarter than you! I’m a brain surgeon who can play flight of the bumblebees one-footed on the zither! Totally proves my smartness. It does it does does does DOES!!!

Among the better criticisms of the idea that edification through the classics comes from Tim Parks here. There are many fine points to his argument including this:

What no one wants to accept—and no doubt there is an element of class prejudice at work here too—is that there are many ways to live a full, responsible, and even wise life that do not pass through reading literary fiction. And that consequently those of us who do pursue this habit, who feel that it enriches and illuminates us, are not in possession of an essential tool for self-realization or the key to protecting civilization from decadence and collapse. We are just a bunch of folks who for reasons of history and social conditioning have been blessed with a wonderful pursuit. Others may or may not be enticed toward it, but I seriously doubt if E.L. James is the first step toward Shakespeare. Better to start with Romeo and Juliet.

Yes, yes, yes, fine, but 1) progressing through different difficulty levels of any type of education may not be linear; it may be a looping; you might go back and forth between books of varying quality, or sprints, or scales, or lots of other to-and-fro-ing even if your general trend is towards mastery; 2) announcing that class is the basis for advantage in any activity is a bit of no-brainer when you really think about it, and 3) there are elite practitioners of just about any activity, both pro-social and not, and status hierarchies within, both earned and unearned. I belong to vegan groups on Facebook because, for reasons of compassion and health, I am trying to eat less meat. The people who dominate in one group are among the most strident, boring, elitist people you’ll find anywhere. I am not equal to them. My foodling efforts and fatness are hardly praiseworthy compared to their dedicated and elite practice. They post in outrage about things, like Trader Joe’s vanilla-flavored coconut milk, with Puritanical zeal about how wrong and horrible and bad and calorie-laden and planet-killing the product is, and I all I can think is: I wants it, my preciousness. Sounds yum.

People who really put effort into something do have some entitlement to take pride in accomplishment–at least some, don’t you think? Education and reading are no different. If you choose to read to escape, sure, that’s your choice, but…am I really obligated to do backflips over your minimal efforts? Nobody running marathons is patting me on my head for going out for an amble. Some days, that amble is all I can bloody do. But let’s not fool ourselves. It ain’t much compared to running 190 miles to cave dive for kale smoothies.

Italo Calvino wrote a lovely essay on why we ought to read the classics. The takeaway? Reading the classics allows us to a break from the immediate pressures of the modern world without, simply staying in the shallows, the way pure escapism does. It’s a break from the quotidian, instrumental demands of everyday life, and a chance to explore big questions we may not encounter in our own experience. What is so very wrong with evangelism around that?

Sweet cracker sandwich, people!!

From a story over at The Wire, in a recent poll 46 percent of respondents agreed with the latter sentiment: “Which of these two statements comes closest to your own point of view about Watergate — it was a very serious matter because it revealed corruption in the Nixon administration or it was just politics — the kind of thing that both parties engage in?”

Sweet bloody cracker sandwich people. It wasn’t ‘just politics’. For one, just about everything involves some form of politics (read Aristotle) and…um….ELECTION RIGGING. No, both parties do not engage in what Nixon did, and it was unprecedented amongst the GOP. Goldwater was appalled if you remember, and he should have been. It wasn’t a problem with conservatives or the Republican Party. It was a problem with a guy who could never stop himself from going a bridge too far to get what he wanted, and his loyal circle of friends who helped him.

#ReadUrbanandPlanningWomen2014 entry #19 Katrin Anacker

Today I am going to write about Katrin Anacker at George Mason, whose home page can be found here. I first met Katrin when she was a post-doc at Virginia Tech’s Metropolitan Institute, and it was clear even then that she is, simply, one of the brightest folks working in planning right now. It’s hard to chose to something to highlight, as she has a long cv already, and she contributes interesting things to both queer urbanism and housing, but I always think her contributions regarding spatial change and suburbia are the most useful to a general urban audience.


Anacker, K. B. (2013). Immigrating, assimilating, cashing in? Analyzing property values in suburbs of immigrant gateways. Housing Studies, 28(5), 720-745. doi:10.1080/02673037.2013.75824

This paper looks at whether suburban home values are holding for immigrant owners in American suburbs. Home-ownership, as I have noted many, many times here, is a means of wealth-building, particularly in the United States, and one of the big questions, following the housing bust, is whether that will continue to be true. Plenty of suburban homeowners got soaked, and Anacker here examines where immigrant with language barriers are locating. This an in-depth analysis that poses three questions using commonly used typology in the literature that breaks immigrant gateways into different types, ranging by whether the gateway was historically important, continues to be, or seems to be becoming a gateway ((1) former gateways, (2) continuous gateways, (3) Post-World War II gateways, (4) emerging gateways, (5) re-emerging gateways, and (6) pre-emerging gateways). Anacker uses American Community Housing data to ask:

  1. Are there differences in the median values of owner-occupied housing units?
  2. Are there differences in the changes in the median values of owner-occupied housing units (2000 to 2005/2009)?
  3. Are there differences in the factors that influence the median values of owner-occupied housing units?

So first, it seems as though there are pretty different groups of immigrants flocking to gateways within the typology, and that falls along inner-city and suburban gateway locations. In general, though, values were higher in suburban gateways, and those gateways did retain their value from 2000 to 2009, despite the downturn. Part of this reflects the comparative success of gateways on the coasts and coastal markets.

For the second-order question regarding changes in value, Anacker finds that pre-emerging gateways tend to have lower values, which she attributes to their location in regional south and southwest rather than coastal markets. It also seems to me that emerging gateways are likely to serve people who may not be entering into housing markets via family connections of established immigrants, as would likely happen less in places that were already established gateways. The lower prices would also be helpful to new arrivals.

The last question finds that median values really depend on the type of gateway, with:

Re-emerging, emerging, continuous, and Post-World War II immigrant gateways had a positive coefficient, indicating their locations in metropolitan areas that are characterized by overall economic success (e.g., Washington, DC, Portland, Seattle, Boston, and Los Angeles). Former immigrant gateways had a negative coefficient, confirming their location in the Rust Belt, with its falling incomes, high unemployment, and the decreasing importance of manufacturing (e.g., Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit).

p. 732 in the original.

There is some nice modeling work here in the analysis, and takeaway is that whether immigrants are building wealth via suburban homeownership really depends on what you mean by suburb–which suburbs, which immigrants.

According to her cv, she is also working on edited volume due out here in 2015: Anacker, Katrin B., ed. (2015). The New American Suburb: Poverty, Race, and the Economic Crisis. Farnham: Ashgate, so that’s to be looked forward to.