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Class, Housing, Passion and Data

April 12, 2007

My friend Hal over at halshop, has a quote from Bell Hooks’ Where We Stand: Class Matters regarding housing on his blog today.  Here is a small excerpt:

More than any other issue facing our nation, housing will be the concern that will force citizens to face the reality of class. Every day citizens of this nation buy houses they cannot afford and will not own in their lifetime. Ironically, in many parts of our nation the houses get bigger and grander even as incomes dwindle. The gap between those who have and those who have not will be registered by the revolt of citizens who once believed that they would always have the right to own, confronting the reality that housing is rapidly becoming a luxury that only those with unlimited resources can hold on to.

While my experience (anecdotal evidence) says that Hooks is pointing to something that is happening to people and that it is bad, some additional information would be helpful.

First, what is happening? And what does bad man?  Is it bad to die in debt?  Are the few people who own their homes outright better off? In what ways are they better off? What other quality-of -life vectors are affected? 

Second, trends and statistics would give us hints about who this is happening to, and how it is happening.  Correlations would tell us where to look for causes or at least coincidences.  This is an inherently complex issue. I don’t mean complex in the sense that the causes and effects are a difficult-to-sort-out ball of spaghetti.  What I mean is that small changes in initial conditions may result in (nonlinear!) large changes in outcomes.

I tend to agree with Hooks; therefore I tend to believe this understanding should inform behavior, policy.  But saying so over and overor hearing a story that supports the bias—doesn’t make it so.  I admire Hooks’ passion; I long for a world with both passion and rigorous analysis.

 

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