Love of God vs. Love of Money

User Forum Topic
Submitted by jg on September 28, 2006 - 9:41pm

Church attendance vs. increase in home price

Spurious correlation, or causation? Will the upcoming depression bring the coastal non-believers to their senses?

Submitted by Sparkey on September 28, 2006 - 10:24pm.

I value your well thought out input jg, but please keep religion in "off topic." To me your graph proves "Religion is the opium of the people (masses)" Karl Marx.

Submitted by Daniel on September 28, 2006 - 10:43pm.

I posted this answer at the end of the thread that brought up this topic ("Did High Tech Incomes..."). I see that it's now spawned a new thread, so I'm going to re-post it here, just to make it visible:

Powayseller asked...

"On a related note, why did SD housing prices rise higher than Austin's?"

My answer has been and will be all along: zoning and building restrictions. This is the only thing that all bubble areas have in common, and differ markedly from non-bubble areas. Income gap? No, look at San Diego and Austin. Fresno isn't full of high rollers, either. Sunshine tax? No, Seattle and Boston are bubblicious despite the weather. Quality of life? There are very nice cities in Colorado and Utah that have sane prices. And there are overpriced hellholes all over inland California.

But: all bubble areas have city or state governments that place a lot of restrictions on buiding (environmental studies, long and expensive approvals, etc). Non-bubble areas do not. Here's your answer.

Incidentally, this may have something to do with the political affiliation of the population (democrats tend to favor slow-growth policies, while republicans tend to let the free market build whatever it wants). That makes blue states more prone to RE bubbles. Since political affiliation also correlates with religion, voila, you have your explanation for the post above!

Submitted by JES on September 28, 2006 - 10:49pm.

JG - Where do you find this stuff! Please don't move the thread as sparkey belongs right here.

Submitted by PerryChase on September 28, 2006 - 10:59pm.

Daniel is right on. Many Communist countries (Russia and Vietnam are examples) have some big real estate bubles (way more than San Diego) because of corruption and restrictions on building. Communists don't exactly believe in God.

Submitted by sdduuuude on September 29, 2006 - 2:28am.

I'm trying to find a state in the upper left hand corner that I'd want to live in and can't seem to find one.

Submitted by blahblahblah on September 29, 2006 - 7:46am.

It's not really government regulation that keeps those Austin prices "low" in relation to California prices. As any Texan knows, there are three things that keep your Texas property value from rising as much as a property on the coast. One is the high property taxes, which start at 2.2% and can approach 3% in the nicer areas (Texas has no state income tax and schools are funded almost completely from local property tax.) Two is the abundance of land which means that new houses are always being built, far more than in California. Three is the high energy costs; those 3000sf monsters are expensive to heat in the winter and really expensive to cool in the summer. $500/month electric bills are not at all uncommon in Texas. Oh, and your home insurance is going to be higher too because of the floods, hail, and tornadoes. Add all of these things up and your Texas bargain isn't such a great deal anymore. Plus, you're living in f***ing Texas! Fire ants! Rednecks in giant pickup trucks! 110 degree heat and 80% humidity! Wal-Mart on every corner! Really, really, REALLY F***ING FAT PEOPLE! It's just a terrible place and by the way, I earned the right to say this because I LIVED THERE FOR 34 YEARS. Oh, and it wasn't always so terrible. The houses used to be nice and small, the yards were big, it wasn't as hot, the people weren't as fat, and we didn't have fire ants or Wal-Mart when I was a kid. I'm not sure what happened to the place but I sure don't like it. I was sad when I left...

Submitted by LookoutBelow on September 29, 2006 - 8:03am.



That was a wonderful description of Texas ! I totally agree, I visited there once (never again) their waves in south Texas totally suck and the water looks like chocolate milk. I saw a small hammerhead shark cruising around while I was standing in chest deep water 300 yards from shore and never did get to the break, especially with that damned shark swimming around, I went back in and ate oysters and marvelled at how and why people would live here.


Sorr....y off topic rant, but I had to comment. 

Submitted by powayseller on September 29, 2006 - 8:55am.

Put the religion and the opium and anything else related to housing on this thread, please. jg showed an interesting correlation. (What's up with being politically correct - that reminds me of Glorian Steinem staying in the 80's that research into differences between boys and girls brain should not be done.)

Submitted by blahblahblah on September 29, 2006 - 9:26am.

Maybe this is related to the correlation between church attendance and divorce. Divorce is higher in the red states (where church attendance is higher) than in the blue. Divorced couples have less money to spend and have to divide their resources among two residences.

Just a thought...

Submitted by Carlsbadliving on September 29, 2006 - 9:28am.

I think that Daniel is on the right track. Building regulations have something to do with it. I work as a land planning consultant. My company would not exist without the extensive land development regulations and the difficulty involved in SoCal development. California has long been ground zero for environmental efforts. We are forced to protect the wetlands, the bluffs, the canyons, the hillsides, etc. What’s there to protect in Kansas? Why would the environmentalists make a stink about a new subdivision on the outskirts of Omaha?

However, this is not new and has for some time caused prices to be more expensive in California. And things ARE getting worse, each year there are new regulations and more red tape to fight through. And we are slowly running out of land, but the end is a long time off. But I think that people buy into all of this. They believe that things are different here, that we are out of land, that EVERYONE wants to live here, and then they take action. Go to any Planning Commission or City Council hearing and listen to the NIMBYs. Once their house is built and they get moved in they don’t want any more development. They say “This place is special so let’s protect it”. It’s perfect for them. They can protest and pass initiatives forcing slow-growth development and that ends up limiting supply and forcing prices up. Who wouldn’t want fewer people moving in and higher property values? And then everyone realizes what’s happening and think that they must buy at any price if they ever want a chance to own in this paradise, then things spiral out of control.

But in the end you can’t have both. You can’t cut the supply, increase the price and expect it to last. As we see now, people will take their money and leave, and nobody will come to replace them. It has to reach equilibrium. Something has to give. The prices have to come down or the incomes have to come up.

I can’t predict the future, but it’s impossible to imagine it getting any cheaper to build here but at the same time I also can’t imagine incomes here suddenly skyrocketing. What does that mean? Most likely, sizeable price drops.

Submitted by CardiffBaseball on September 29, 2006 - 1:30pm.

Of course Texans are bigger, and that might explain why the Austin based football teams bitch slapped the SoCal team on their home field. Too many health nutty, vegans leads to less physical football teams?

Ah hell I am generalizing as much as Concho, once in awhile you see a tough player from out here.

Submitted by OwnerOfCalifornia on September 30, 2006 - 8:18am.

Too many health nutty, vegans leads to less physical football teams?

heh, you know that could describe Austin-based football teams as well? Pretty even match-up if you ask me :)

Submitted by PerryChase on September 30, 2006 - 9:35am.

The Red States are not anymore virtuous. They commit more sins so they have a lot more to repent!

I was just talking to my sister-in-law who's from small town Kentucky. She said that the rate of teen pregnancy there is sky high. In fact, her brother who's married just got some other girl pregnant. So much for the virtuous heartland. Why do think that religious people have so many children? Because they fxxx like rabbits!

Submitted by 4plexowner on September 30, 2006 - 10:07am.

Question: What do you call the period of history when the Church dominated all aspects of western life?

Answer: The Dark Ages

Question: What do you call the period of history after the shackles of the Church were thrown off?

Answer: The Age of Enlightenment

Submitted by jg on September 30, 2006 - 3:53pm.

What do England, Denmark, Norway, and Iran have in common? Official religions.

State-sponsored religion, if it's Christian, is not something to be afraid of; just ask a Brit, Dane, or Norwegian.

Where did bounds on the absolute power (of kings) and the specification of enforceable rights (i.e., a written constitution) arise? Pre-Christian pagan Germany? Buddhist India or China? No, such originated in Greece and Rome, and flowered in Christian Europe, most notably in the Magna Carta (1215, in the middle of the misnamed Dark Ages).

I'm thankful that a group of Puritans crossed the Atlantic, wrote a great document on self-government, and planted the seed that grew into America.

Interestingly, do you remember from history class, how the Puritans established their initial economic system as communism, and abandoned it only after they nearly starved? Christians are idealists, and served as the catalyst for emancipation, prohibition/temperance, and suffragism.

Let us Christians keep our crosses and prayers, and you guys can keep CBS and Hollywood!

Submitted by carlislematthew on October 1, 2006 - 9:15am.

What do England, Denmark, Norway, and Iran have in common?

Ummm. You've never been to any of these countries?

I'm from England and the "Church of England" is by no means sponsored, except in history, which is totally meaningless. English politicians rarely/never invoke God, or "faith-based initiatives". It's about as secular is you could possibly imagine (or dread, in your case). To compare England with Iran, in religious terms, is just asburd and shows a lack of understanding of England's history and current religous makeup. Iran is a muslim-led country, England is a Christian "flavored" country, and the flavoring is very weak indeed.

Talk to a few English people about going to church, how the church fits in with political life, and they'll probably stare at you blankly wondering when you're going to deliver the punchline.

Submitted by speedingpullet on October 1, 2006 - 12:58pm.

I'd second Carlislematthew on the UK stuation.

The UK is much, much more secular than the United States.

The Church of England has had a steadily declining membership over the last 20 years, to the point where clergy are finding it hard to find (and hold) a viable congregation, and churches are being decommisioned (often coming on the market as refubished condos or SFRs).
Church attendance is very, very low, and is not increasing, due to the fact that the large percentage of church goers are aging, and younger people are not replacing them.
Most people see the church, and consequently christianity, as an outdated paradigm that has little to offer people in the modern world. Certainly, any body, group and individual that tries to impose christianity is met with resistance and resentment.

To use a housing analogy - comparing The C of E with christianity in the US is like comparing Apples with Oranges.

Submitted by powayseller on October 1, 2006 - 2:39pm.

Maybe that explains why England has a housing bubble, too.

I don't want to start any religion wars here. I don't even go to church, and I hate going to church, but I want to be open to all possibilities. It makes sense that more materialistic societies spend more home equity and take on more debt, causing a housing bubble. Communities which value family and connections and don't compare their material wealth, don't create housing bubbles. John Talbott mentioned something like that in his book. He said Midwesterners are more grounded and conservative so they don't have housing bubbbles there.

Full disclosure: shares in IBG (I believe in God).

Submitted by deadzone on October 1, 2006 - 2:45pm.

Housing bubbles are created because people behave like sheep, following what others do instead of thinking for themselves. This is very much like religion as most people follow religion for the same reason.

Submitted by powayseller on October 1, 2006 - 2:55pm.

deadzone, the sheep thing is very important to our discussion, and I'm glad to see it brought up again. Every bubble relies on sheeple mentality. Yet, we still have to answer why some cities have bubbles and others don't.

Ok, I am *not* religious, so I have no agenda here, but it seems to me that truly religious people have that sparkle in their eyes, that non-religous people usually lack, although I have non-religious friends who sparkle too. In general, it seems that truly believing in religion makes people happier on the inside, and that could explain less desire for materialism. But I don't know if this is proven, and I agree that many people use religion as a crutch, just like people use AA as a substitute for alcohol.

Back to the point: whether we like religion or not, the graph jg provided makes a compelling case for a link between religion and housing bubbles. Since we are students of housing bubbles, it behooves us to consider this link, and not dismiss it out of hand. I was so appalled when Gloria Steinem said we should stop research on the differences between male and female brains, because she didn't want to think these differences existed; however, knowing these differences has been a boon to educators and it turns out that the research proved that boys and girls each have their own strength.

We've had two tantalizing links this week to explain why some cities had a housing bubbles, and others did not: Religion and more high-income workers.

Submitted by jg on October 1, 2006 - 4:44pm.

Yeah, I've been to England, etc. We lived in Europe in 1996 (Maastricht, The Netherlands) when I worked at Medtronic and had an expatriate assignment. My son's first words were Dutch.

I know that Europeans don't practice their religion to the extent that we do here in the U.S. My point was that official involvement of Christianity in government life -- and that's what England, Norway, and Denmark have -- is not the death knell for left wingers and 'forward' thinkers. Far from it.

Just as in the U.S., there are great differences within the countries. To me, Amsterdam was akin to Los Angeles/Las Vegas, Maastricht was slow, conservative, family-oriented. In fact, it was amazing how family friendly The Netherlands was, compared to California. Motherhood was venerated, it seemed. Very different, and very nice.

Submitted by blahblahblah on October 1, 2006 - 4:54pm.

Did no one pay attention to the post from the person who actually LIVED in Texas? Try paying 2.5% property tax. On a 400K home you're looking at 10K yearly. Now add the high energy bills you need to heat and cool your 3000sf McMansion in Texas where it is HOT in the summer and COLD in the winter. And don't forget the higher insurance to cover you in case of hail, floods and tornadoes. Oh, and there's no Prop 13 in Texas so your property value gets re-assesed frequently. These additional costs add to the monthly payment which keeps the house price low in relation to California (most sheeple buy according to the payment, not the price of the home). And of course there is an incredible amount of free land to build on in Texas so there's no need for a lot of restriction on building permits; you will always be competing with a large amount of new homes in new subdivisions with shinier shopping malls and newer schools. This acts as another damper on home price appreciation. I'm sorry but it has nothing to do with religion, and Texans are not any smarter than Californians.

I will take back my remark about lots of fat people in Texas. I was just there a few days ago and people looked generally healthier than they do here in SD! Maybe that is due to the religion factor, but the difference in home price definitely isn't...

Submitted by Sparkey on October 1, 2006 - 7:46pm.

Maybe it is because regular church attendees have 10% less income every week. Do banks calculate that into affordability?

Submitted by kim on November 5, 2007 - 7:21pm.

JG - correlation does not prove causation.

Is there another variable which could explain both the increased "religiousity" and the run up in prices?

For example: the run up in prices is caused by either increased demand or constraints on supply. As some have noted, the supply constraints can be cause by regulation (perhaps to achieve an environmental goal). The increased demand may be caused by the economic health of a community which lures additional workers to the area.

Your analysis begs the questions:
* is religiousity correlated with less economically viable regions or less job growth?
* if so, is there an underlying quality that promotes both economic health and a lack of religiousity?

Submitted by Arraya on November 5, 2007 - 8:06pm.

I would agree that money did take the place of religion. However they are both based on a flawed belief in the infinate, therefore figments of our imagination. I can live forever=home prices will go up forever=population can grow forever.

This the main problem with the world society and it will be our downfall. Basing everything on flawed assumptions. Geological limits are soon going to teach us a big lesson i.e. resource depletion, eco-system destruction, climate change.

We are a world of two year olds that do not know our limits, in one form or another. We really do love our stories.

Submitted by Artifact on November 5, 2007 - 11:19pm.

I am curious what the actual statistics are? Looking at that figure my guess is that, yes that is a significant correlation, but what are the actual numbers (r-squared and p-value) if you are going to post that plot saying it is a significant correlation. I would also guess you could get a similar correlation with a few other factors as well (employment, incomes, education level, etc.).

A comment on the environmental regulations since I work in that field - yes CA has pretty strict regulations, but some of the examples that were brought up fall under federal laws as well, so apply in any state - wetlands are a good example - some of the most "religous" states would have far more expensive mitigation for wetlands impacts if they want to build because so many areas in them are full of wetlands (i.e. LA, MS, SC).

The coastal sage scrub habitat that is so common here is regulated by CA fish and game, but it also falls under federal jurisdiction because of the Gnatcatcher that lives there, so it is not just CA's rules - my point being that while CA does have some stricter environmental laws, many of the protected resources (endangered species and certain habitats) also fall under federal laws that would effect building in any state - regulated by USFWS and/or ACOE. Often for wetlands, which I am most familiar with, the mitigation for the state is the same as for federal, so the only difference in cost is paying the permit fee, which for most developments is a very small amount of money relatively speaking - they have to pay to have the permit prepared, but they have to do that in other states as well.

I do always enjoy reading about how there is no land to build on here. I just don't think that is really that big of an issue except right on the coast (west of the 5) - from my view the only thing that has slowed down the rate of building in San Diego is the lack of buyers, not lack of land. There are graded lots being left empty in areas where all of the environmental permitting is done (SEH for example) - so the only reason they are not building is because no one will by them, when they think they can sell, they will start building again.


Submitted by DCRogers on November 5, 2007 - 11:19pm.

arraya, love them monkeys. Thanks.

Submitted by nostradamus on November 6, 2007 - 12:14am.

I can't help myself with this one... maybe the churchees would buy more houses if they didn't have to pay those darn child rape victims.

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