My Interview Published in the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland's New Forefront Magazine

Matthew E. Kahn's picture

I apologize for self-promotion but you have to admit that parts of this interview posted here at are funny and mildly thought provoking!  This interview focuses on the causes and consequences of "green cities".

Here is an excerpt: 

Richter: On your blog, you noted that you can buy 100 homes in Detroit for the price of one in Westwood [where UCLA is located]. Is that a good deal?

Kahn: I started this blog because my wife wanted me to stop telling her all my ideas, and this was a cheap way to communicate with all my friends in academia. Many of them read it and then send me rude remarks. But to your question, UCLA has been suffering from high local real estate prices! A sign to economists of great quality of life is high real estate prices, but UCLA is having trouble recruiting faculty because of it. Faculty at an Ohio State or a university in Boston say, "UCLA is a great school, but I can't afford the housing nearby." I'm talking about a $1.3 million, 2,000 square foot house, not the Playboy mansion, that is affecting the ability of UCLA to recruit.

Then I read another webpage that Detroit homes are $13,000 each. So my thinking was along these lines: I'm writing a new book about how climate change will affect cities' quality of life. For example, if winter becomes warmer in Cleveland and Detroit and other Midwest and Northeast cities, then by the year 2075 the current huge home price differential between Los Angeles and these cities could sharply shrink. If these cities become warmer, will Cleveland and Detroit by the year 2075 be much more desirable places? A good economist should react to that news before it is reflected in prices. So I should be selling my Westwood house and making this purchase now.

But when people commented on my piece they pointed out that most of these Detroit homes have been stripped down, no metal. You would have to invest a huge amount of money to make these livable homes. While you can buy a Detroit home for $13,000, you cannot move into it.



Matthew E. Kahn is a professor at the UCLA Institute of the Environment.


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